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:
- 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)
- 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.