Congressman Matt Salmon’s oddly specific budgetary hit list

Yesterday, I flagged two bills sponsored by Congressman Matt Salmon (R – Buzzkillistan). The first would prohibit the federal government from subsidizing yoga and pilates classes for its employees, because when he said he wanted to run the government like a business he only meant the part about slashing departments and outsourcing labor. The second would prohibit the federal government from funding one niche area of research that the National Science Foundation had deemed worthy of studying — specifically, why and how people get stressed when they talk about politics.

As one might imagine, those aren’t the only two ridiculous budgetary grievances Salmon has lodged in bill form during his time in Congress. He is retiring at the end of this year, and appears to have made it his final mission to ban every pocket of federal spending he doesn’t like, one line item at a time.

His budgetary hit list is way too long and odd to not explore in slightly greater detail.

Of the last 75 bills that Salmon has been lead sponsor on, no less than 27 have been for the specific defunding of various and at times weirdly specific federal expenditures. They are, in reverse chronological order:

Congressman Matt Salmon (R - Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

Congressman Matt Salmon (R – Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

  • Contributions to the United Nations Population Fund
  • Contributions to the East-West Center
  • The Science and Technology account of the EPA
  • The Voice of America
  • The Rural Utilities Service High Energy Cost Grant Program
  • The National Labor Relations Board
  • Contributions to the United Nations Democracy Fund
  • National Science Foundation funding for travel to Antarctica by writers and artists
  • The Heritage Partnership Program and National Heritage Areas
  • Contributions to the Institute of Peace
  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Popular Romance Project, or any similar project relating to love or romance
  • The entire National Endowment for the Humanities (this one was introduced exactly one week after the bill to block the specific NEH project)
  • Amtrak
  • Coastal recreation water quality monitoring and notification
  • Contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (again)
  • Research on the prevention of rose rosette disease
  • The Voice of America (again)
  • Contributions to the United Nations Democracy Fund (again)
  • Developing or evaluating a video game to train parents in food parenting practices, specifically “Kiddio: Food Fight — Training Vegetable Parenting Practices”
  • The Polar Learning and Responding Climate Change Educational Partnership
  • The Science and Technology account of the EPA (again)
  • The National Labor Relations Board (again)
  • Hiring contractors to deliver interactive, professional training seminars for senior-level officials on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills
  • Research on which facets of social interaction about politics are most stress inducing, for which kinds of people, and in which contexts
  • Yoga and pilates classes for Executive agency employees

And, finally, introduced yesterday:

  • Research on the effects of artificial light on the behavior and movement of insects

As I pointed out yesterday, prohibiting the government from subsidizing yoga and pilates classes for its employees because “the government isn’t Google” seemed a bit odd given Salmon’s previously expressed interest in running the government like a business. It is even odder when one considers that, in the middle of taking a legal scalpel to the federal programs that he finds personally objectionable, Congressman Salmon also introduced a bill to make withdrawals from health savings accounts for expenses relating to gym memberships and classes (even yoga and pilates classes!) tax-deductible. Per Salmon, having the government subsidize yoga is fine, as long as government workers aren’t the ones doing the yoga.

Salmon has also introduced bills to repeal a tax on gun silencers (the Hearing Protection Act — get it?) and to allow states to require proof of citizenship for voter registration. Salmon’s home state of Arizona is one of just four states seeking to institute such a requirement for voter registration — a requirement that the courts have rejected on multiple occasions.

All this is to say, if this is what Congressman Salmon wants to spend his time and energy on during his last few months in the House, I guess that’s his prerogative. None of these line items amount to anything close to significant chunks of the federal budget (as I noted yesterday, Salmon’s own case for defunding yoga hinged on $15,000 that the State Department spent last year — a figure that amounts to 0.00003%, or three one hundred thousandths of one percent, of the agency’s annual budget), but he’ll always be able to get a headline back home for fighting against spending he can portray as wasteful. And these bills, by and large, never make it anywhere because, honestly, why would we bother passing an entire law to block one NSF grant, or one specific training practice for people invited to testify before Congress? So at the end of the day, no real harm is being done by letting Salmon swing at a few windmills before he heads out.

But at the same time, being in Congress is a really cool and important job, and Matt Salmon has devoted more than a third of his leadership efforts to bills that are as trivial as they are full of shit. At the very least, I can’t help but wonder if he feels like his time in office has been well-spent, and if he thinks he’s leaving the country and his district slightly better than he found it.

Matt Salmon’s constituents ask him what he’s done for them lately to make their lives better, and he brags about how he fought to make it slightly harder for EPA workers to stretch. Maybe his successor will be slightly more into the idea of public service, but for some reason I doubt it.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • LesbianTippingHabits

    Congressman Salmon is also a cheap tipper.

  • armedliberal

    I am old enough to remember the pre-EPA US. It was a filthy mess. Things are better now. That agency needs to be supported.

  • The_Fixer

    I think a good deal of the items on that list are a given – the far-right conservatives don’t want to fund stuff that improves lives because they’re… well, assholes.

    But the remaining are simply to shut down the idea that some of those things can be proven to be right and effective. It’s another thing that they’ll have to pay attention to, and by god, they can’t be willingly dragged into the 21st century. It’s part of that rosy-eyed look back to the 1950s, when we didn’t worry about running out of oil, that Lead everywhere was not a good thing, and when “colored people” knew their place.

    If one wants to look at waste and questionable projects, then the first place to look is the Defense department, of course. However, this is an anathema to them. So they pick on little things that don’t generally cost much money as a distraction.

    Salmon is on his way out. Why would he bother with this stuff? Well, I suspects he wants to leave a legacy of never quitting. Yes, he’s proven effectively that he has not stopped being an asshole, and likely never will.

  • Randy Riddle

    I don’t know why he’d want to defund the Voice of America – they’re giving airtime to a Trump-loving, gun toting right-wing nutcase running for Congress in NC, Sue Googe.

    Here’s the website ad she’s running that’s making the rounds around several John Birch-inspired websites in our area:

    https://twitter.com/_CFJ_/status/733629800745603078/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    http://www.suegooge.com

    And here’s her interview on VOA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqbF1e4Ttto

  • johnbales

    Sounds like the one thing that Salmon got from his time in Congress was 1) a way-generous salary, 2) a Congressional pension, and 3) contacts he can turn to for his next job opportunity after he leaves Congress.

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  • Grant Saw

    Salmon is obviously a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who thinks liberal programs destroy America. Rather than improve lives he wants it known that the cumulative debt gathered from these items are causing worse problems than poor foreign policy choices, an overheated war machine and the chicken-hawks who gladly blow that coin to supplement their egos. Talk about misplaced priorities.

  • goulo

    Defunding that list of generally reasonable good sounding stuff seems a sad idea for one’s legacy! One imagines him lying on his deathbed later, full of bitter regret and thinking “Damn, I should have defunded even more programs which brought value to other people’s lives!”

  • RepubAnon

    As he’s retiring, it seems unlikely that he’s proposing this legislation as a cynical ploy to get votes. I’d guess that he’s pumped out this agitprop for so long that he’s brainwashed himself into believing that enacting way-right talking points is a useful way to spend his remaining time in office.

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