By Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent, Washington Examiner
September 18, 2009
Back in February, during the Democrats’ frenzied rush to pass the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, Republican Sen. David Vitter offered a simple, 28-word amendment: “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used directly or indirectly to fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.” Vitter’s amendment was shot down, 51-45, with all the votes coming from the Democratic majority.
At about the same time, GOP lawmakers introduced similar measures in the House. Those, too, were defeated by Democratic majorities.
Fast-forward to Monday, Sept. 14. A Housing Department appropriations bill was moving through the Senate, and Republican Sen. Mike Johanns offered an amendment that was nearly word-for-word identical to the one Vitter introduced back in February, barring all federal housing funds for ACORN. This time, the ACORN-defunding amendment passed, 83-7. The winning total included 50 — yes, 50 — Democrats. Liberals like Chris Dodd, Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, Charles Schumer and others who supported ACORN back in February all changed their votes to approve the cutoff of funds.
That was just a preview of what would happen on Thursday, across the Capitol in the House of Representatives. Just 48 hours after Republican Leader John Boehner introduced the “Defund ACORN Act,” which would ban all federal funds for the group, the House Democratic leadership agreed to a vote on the bill. Boehner’s measure passed 345-to-75, with 172 Democrats voting to cut off funds for an organization that had long worked on behalf of Democrats nationwide.
It was an absolutely mind-blowing turn of events, a total collapse of longtime Democratic support for ACORN. Republicans had worked for years to reduce ACORN’s influence, with little success. Now, in the span of a few days, the GOP scored major victories.
Everybody knows why. None of this would have happened had it not been for undercover videos, released on the new Web site BigGovernment, which caught ACORN employees in Baltimore, Washington, New York City and California in the act of encouraging tax fraud and prostitution, including prostitution involving underage girls. The videos, which were ignored by most big media organizations other than Fox News, had a huge effect on Capitol Hill.
“I was stunned by what I saw,” says Johanns, who has had his eye on ACORN since joining the Senate in January. “I just could not believe that you could have a situation where people were so complacent, so complicit, in what was clearly activity that was not only illegal but just unbelievably wrong.”