House will try again to end taxpayer funding for presidential campaigns

The House next week will consider a bill that would end taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns and terminate the Election Assistance Commission, which was set up in 2002 to improve voting standards across the country.

The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday to approve a rule for H.R. 3463, which could lead to floor action as early as Wednesday.

The legislation, from Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), essentially combines two bills that the House considered earlier this year. One of these, which the House passed in January, would end taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns by eliminating the option taxpayers now have to donate $3 of their tax payments to a presidential campaign fund.

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The older bill said no financing would be available after 2009; Harper's new bill updates that and says no funding would be available after 2010, and any remaining funds would go toward reducing the deficit. Republicans estimate that this change would send more than $600 million more to the general fund of the Treasury Department that could be used to reduce the deficit.

Harper's bill also contains elements that the House considered but failed to pass in June that would eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The House voted 235-187 in favor of that bill, but it failed because House Republicans brought it up under a suspension of House rules, which requires a two-thirds majority vote.

The EAC was set up in the wake of voting problems in the close 2000 presidential election and was authorized to distribute grants to states for the purpose of improving voting standards. Republicans argue that the work of the EAC is done, and that any remaining functions it has — such as certifying acceptable voting standards — can be folded into the Federal Election Commission.

While the GOP says this could save $33 million over five years, Democrats argued that the work of the EAC to improve voting standards is ongoing and it still has an advisory role even if it is done handing out grants to states.

Because the House will consider Harper's new bill under a rule, and the votes taken earlier this year, it is expected to pass easily on the strength of Republican support.