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House Votes to End Presidential Campaign Fund

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Gregg Harper, the bill’s sponsor, said ending public financing for presidential elections would save $480 million over five years.

The House voted today to end taxpayer financing of presidential elections.

In a 235-190 vote, the House approved a measure to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and shut down the Election Assistance Commission, a national clearinghouse on the mechanics of voting.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill has no chance in the Senate, harshly criticizing House Republicans for advancing it.

“Instead of making it so it’s easier for people to vote, they want to do everything they can to make it easier to make it harder for people to vote. I don’t understand this,” Reid said. “They want to have as few people to vote as possible.”

Supporters of the bill say termination of the two programs would eliminate unnecessary government spending and help reduce the deficit.

Citing Congressional Budget Office figures, bill sponsor Rep. Gregg Harper said ending taxpayer financing of presidential elections and the election commission would reduce the deficit by $199 million immediately and by $480 million over five years.

“If we do not eliminate some programs, then a $15 trillion debt will be our decline into a European-style financial crisis,” the Mississippi Republican said.

The measure would get rid of a checkoff option on federal income tax returns, the proceeds of which go into a presidential election fund, and return any unused money to the Treasury. The Federal Election Commission would take up some of the EAC’s functions once terminated.

Taxpayer financing of presidential elections was established after the Watergate scandal. Although President Barack Obama opted out of the public financing system for his general election campaign in 2008, he opposed the attempt to end it, saying it should be fixed instead.

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