House panel votes to cut Dodd-Frank funding

House Republican appropriators on Tuesday voted to cut funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is charged with enforcing President Obama’s signature financial reform law.

The Appropriations Committee is providing $180 million for the CFTC, far less than the $308 million the Obama administration wants in order to implement the Dodd-Frank law. The funding level in 2012 was $205 million and the Senate is on track to provide $308 million.

CFTC has added responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to regulate the giant derivatives market.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) tried to provide $224 million in funding for CFTC, but his amendment to the 2013 Agriculture spending bill was defeated by a vote of 19 to 27.

“Why would we, when the fire is burning, want to recall the fireman?” Farr asked a meeting of the full committee.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Agriculture subcommittee, argued against Farr's proposal.

“This is not an impoverished agency,” he said.

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He said 82 percent of CFTC staff make more than $100,000 in salary and that they have wasted money on travel and conferences. He argued that the number of transactions CFTC now oversees has only increased 0.2 percent and that the agency has failed to police MF Global and JPMorgan Chase.

“We are not seeing the regulatory result for the money we have already spent on CFTC,” he said.

Democrats said higher salaries are needed to lure talented lawyers to battle Wall Street abuses. They argued that hobbling the agency to punish past failures makes little sense.

Farr did not try to provide the full $308 million the Obama administration has proposed because providing funding above the total $19.4 billion allocation of the bill was not possible under committee rules.

His amendment would have offset the increase for CFTC with a cut to an obesity education program.

Republicans said that obesity education should not be cut in order to hire more bureaucrats. Democrats replied that the offset had been included in a budget reconciliation bill that the GOP approved this spring.

Overall, the 2013 Agriculture spending bill provides $19.405 billion, a cut of $365 million from 2012 and $1.7 billion below Obama’s 2013 budget.

The lengthy markup in committee featured contentious amendment votes, many on measures sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

DeLauro tried to restore $250 million for Food for Peace program, arguing that 6.6 million people will go hungry around the world because the bill cuts $316 million in funding. That was voted down 20 to 26, with Republicans on the committee arguing that DeLauro hadn’t found an offset for the new spending.

DeLauro, teaming up with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), also tried to add regulations for tanning beds.  Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) led the opposition, arguing that the government should trust consumers to make choices about using tanning beds, which have been shown to cause cancer.

The tanning bed amendment was voted down 21 to 25.

Dent tried to block funding to implement the U.S. sugar program, which creates higher sugar prices in the U.S. through a series of quotas. He argued that doing so would create three manufacturing jobs for every one farming job lost.

“It’s not just Hershey,” he said of the candy-maker in his district.

Members of both parties, led by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voted the sugar amendment down 15 to 30.  

The Senate last week failed to agree on a similar provision during a farm bill vote and will take up sugar program changes again this week during debate on the farm bill.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) prevailed over DeLauro and the Democrats in an effort to ensure poor people can still buy potato products using funds from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The government has sought to restrict consumption especially of fried potato products.

“This is about truth, justice and the American way,” Simpson said.

“Oh spare us!” DeLauro cried.

— This story was updated at 1:48 p.m.