Rep. Chuck Fleischmann called key player in YouCut effort

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann called key player in YouCut effort

October 18th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., issued a news release last week saying his boss would lead YouCut, an online voting program that gives Americans the chance to select which government programs Congress should cut.

In a 40-second video clip, Fleischmann did not name, explain or recommend any of the three suggested cuts, some of which could strip Tennessee of federal funding for construction jobs. Instead, the congressman encouraged people to go to YouCut's page, which is located on the website for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

A Cantor spokeswoman said YouCut has attracted between 80,000 and 120,000 votes during each of its nine rounds of voting since May. As of Monday afternoon, Fleischmann's introductory video had 71 YouTube views.

After Cantor's office counts the votes, Fleischmann is expected to introduce legislation to terminate the program online voters believe to be "most wasteful" -- the U.S. Institute for Peace, the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program or the Department of Transportation's National Scenic Byways Program.

Some proposed cuts are close to home.

In August, the federal government awarded nearly $400,000 for work projects to repair three scenic byways in Tennessee. And in 2009, Tennessee received $200 million from the Weatherization Assistance Program to improve insulation and energy efficiency for low-income households, including $1.8 million in block grants to Chattanooga, federal records show.

Jordan Powell, the congressman's spokesman, said Fleischmann "ultimately" decided which programs should be considered.

"Our office worked with Majority Leader Cantor's office, as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to put together a list of possibilities," Powell said.

Brandon Puttbrese, a spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, criticized Fleischmann's lack of guidance and explanation.

"I think Tennesseans would prefer a congressman who wants to govern Congress, not the YouCut game show," Puttbrese said.

According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, only nine rounds of YouCut voting have occurred since May -- less than the promised rate of once per legislative week. Several bills remain in committee, and most are not expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and White House.

To this point, Fleischmann has been the main sponsor on one bill, which would roll back a federal mandate to update state road signs. The bill hasn't left a subcommittee since it hit the House floor in June, although the Department of Transportation has dropped its requirement that all highway signs include higher-visible "retroreflectivity" by January.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfree or 423-757-6610.