The House : War on Poverty

The House passed and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 10) extending the life of the Appalachian Regional Commission for five years and of the Economic Development Administration for three years. The vote was 260 for and 96 against.

Both agencies were created during the War on Poverty of the 1960s to channel economic aid to depressed areas of the country. The Reagan Administration has sought to kill the programs, calling them wasteful and arguing that local and state resources can more effectively deal with regional pockets of poverty.

This bill authorizes $850 million in fiscal 1986.

Supporter James Howard (D-N.J.) said, “There is a continuing urgency to retain targeted economic programs to help as many as possible of our most distressed areas.”


Opponent Chalmers Wylie (R-Ohio) said the bill “flings wide open the door to pork-barrel abuse and increases our ever-worsening federal budget deficit.”

Members voting yes wanted to keep the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration in existence.

How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Beilenson (D) x Rep. Berman (D) x Rep. Dixon (D) x Rep. Levine (D) x Rep. Waxman (D) x

Community Eligibility

By a vote of 109 for and 247 against, the House rejected an amendment to tighten the eligibility requirements for communities receiving targeted federal aid from the Economic Development Administration.

Proposed to HR 10 (above), the amendment required a recipient community to have a per capita income of less than 80% of the national average and an unemployment rate at least 1% above the national rate.

This sought to tighten language in HR 10 that grants eligibility to communities that meet just one of the two standards. As finally approved, the bill also makes Economic Development Administration money available to communities that have suffered a major economic shock.

Although the agency’s original mission was to help the most distressed areas of the country, its money now can go to all but 19 of the 435 congressional districts and to about 80% of America’s communities.

Sponsor Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) said his amendment would channel limited federal resources to the neediest areas.

Opponent Kenneth Gray (D-Ill.) said the amendment would hasten the exodus of jobs from the industrial north to Sun Belt areas such as McCollum represents.

Members voting yes wanted to tighten Economic Development Administration eligibility requirements.

How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Beilenson (D) x Rep. Berman (D) x Rep. Dixon (D) x Rep. Levine (D) x Rep. Waxman (D) x

Railroad Safety

By a vote of 106 for and 254 against, the House rejected an amendment to cut $3.2 million in fiscal 1986 from a bill (HR 2372) dealing with federal regulation of railroad safety. The bill, which was passed by voice vote and sent to the Senate, would spend $41.6 million in 1986 for a variety of safety and research and development programs administered by the Department of Transportation.

In addition to funding these programs, the bill strengthens the job security of railroad employees who report safety violations to the government or refuse to go to work because of unsafe conditions.

This amendment sought to reduce the federal subsidy of state safety inspections.

Sponsor Robert Walker (R-Pa.) said American taxpayers “are sick and tired of the process in Congress that always finds ways to justify spending.”

Opponent James Florio (D-N.J.) said, “If anything, we should be providing for an increase in rail safety.”

Members voting yes supported the amendment.

How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Beilenson (D) x Rep. Berman (D) x Rep. Dixon (D) x Rep. Levine (D) x Rep. Waxman (D) x