Elections Should Give Power to the People, Not to Money, Larsen Says of No Vote on Spending Bill

Dec 11, 2014 Issues: Budget

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, tonight voted against a government spending bill that gives the wealthy an even louder voice in elections, hurts college affordability for low- and middle-income students and destroys the pensions of more than a million hardworking Americans.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 219-206. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“Keeping the government running for the people of our country is clearly a critical priority, but we can do that with a clean spending bill that does not hurt students, retirees and the integrity of our elections. One of my top priorities is to break down barriers so all people can participate in our economy and our democracy, and it is with that goal in mind that I voted against this bill. It contains several measures that take big steps backwards for the middle class, and this is unacceptable. We must do better by the middle class.

“I have long said that elections should give power to the people, not to money. Yet our country’s political process now stands to become even more lopsidedly in favor of the wealthy. Provisions in this bill essentially destroy any limits on how much people can give to political parties. Our democracy depends on people’s vote at the ballot box, not on the size of their bank accounts. I will continue to fight against harmful laws that give the wealthy an outsized influence on elections.

“I am also deeply frustrated that the bill cuts into Pell Grants, which enable millions of low- and middle-income students to afford higher education. We need to be telling our students we will invest in them. They are the future engineers, teachers, doctors, and entrepreneurs who will keep our country growing and competitive long into the future. To tell our students instead that an affordable higher education is not a priority is shortsighted and hurts our country’s economic potential.

“My vote against this bill is also a vote in favor of protecting the hard-earned pensions of retirees in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. I know some multiemployer pension plans are on rocky ground following the recession, but slashing the pensions of a million hardworking middle-class Americans goes against our values and does not create a sustainable way forward for these funds.

“A bill to fund the government should be just that – a bill to fund the government. It should not include other policy decisions like further degrading our country’s campaign finance laws that House members had no opportunity to debate. My vote against this bill is a vote in favor of a plan for our country’s spending that reflects our shared value of opportunity for all,” Larsen said.

Details of the provisions that Larsen opposes include:

  • Increases campaign donation limits to allow individual donors to give more than $1 million to political parties each two-year election cycle.
  • A $303 million cut to the Pell Grant program. While the program currently runs a surplus, it is expected to start facing shortfalls in 2017.
  • A measure that allows multiemployer pension plans to cut benefits for current retirees.