Fate of election commission to be decided in Wednesday vote

The bill is touted by Republicans as a way to save at least $33 million over the next five years. They say the EAC, established in 2002 in reaction to the fierce partisan fighting over the 2000 presidential election, has already done its job of sending out grant money to states to upgrade old voting equipment and help states set voting standards.

"This is actually a clear and easy choice," said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). "The EAC has accomplished that, paying out over $3 billion to states for those purposes."

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) added that the EAC's time has "come and gone," and said Congress needs to take these sorts of steps in light of the looming fiscal crisis.

"Constituents are looking at us as they look for some glimmer that we understand the terrible fiscal situation we find ourselves in, and they're looking for just the littlest, the smallest suggestion that we are going to be serious about the fiscal mess that we find ourselves in," he said.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) also noted that state election officials have told Congress the EAC should be repealed at this point. "When those who oversee elections call for the dissolution of an agency supposedly meant to be supporting their efforts, Congress should listen," he said.

But Democrats continued to reject each of these arguments, and said ending the EAC would inevitably allow U.S. election standards to slide around the country. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the EAC continues to help election workers, and rejected GOP arguments that the agency was meant to be temporary.

"There was no intention to make this a temporary agency just for the distribution of grants," he said. "It was an ongoing advisory agency to make sure that best practices were pursued, not because they can impose, but because they can advise."

He also recalled the close Florida election that left the country hanging for several weeks as both parties fought over Florida's electoral votes that eventually gave the victory to George W. Bush.

"To eliminate the very agency constructed to ensure that we do not repeat the travesty of 2000 is to retreat from ensuring fair, open, accessible elections where every vote will count," he said.

Gonzalez added that the EAC is still valuable because it helps avoid these recounts, and smooths over recounts that are needed. "If the EAC can prevent the need for such recounts, and reduce the cost and time involved in others, how much is that worth?" he asked.