May 08, 2018
Someone once said that giving money to the government is like giving car keys to teenage boys. The only difference is, teenagers usually know when to use the brakes. Republicans have tried to cut some of Washington's spending -- but you don't have to be the White House budget director to know that pumping millions of dollars into things like "Doggie Hamlet" and climate change paint camps is feeding our $21 trillion debt. People who want to trim down have to start by looking in the mirror. And the same goes for the federal government.
Congress didn't have the stomach to do it in the omnibus bill, but thank goodness President Trump does. This morning, the White House bundled $15 billion in rescission cuts and sent them straight to the House and Senate. Thanks to the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, presidents can permanently cancel funding to executive agencies -- if it's within a 45-day window, and if a simple majority of Congress approves. Not surprisingly, it's a weapon Barack Obama never used. Trump's proposal -- which is actually $4 billion more than he'd originally planned -- is the first time a president has used the process since Bill Clinton. And according to one senior official, this is "the largest single rescissions request at one time."
The beauty of the rescission process is that Congress can fast-track it. Unlike normal spending bills, this proposal can bypass the 60-vote majority in the Senate. Using his own budget request as a guide, the president zeroed in on a number of unnecessary -- and in some cases, obsolete – programs to slash. Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Russell Vought highlighted the misuses of funds targeted by the president in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal Monday. Amazingly, a lot of line-items seemed to be funded on auto-pilot without anyone checking to see if they were still operational.
The Energy Department's loan program for Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing hasn't actually made a loan since 2011. By acting on the administration's proposal, Congress can now rescind more than $4.3 billion that has been idle for seven years.
The Trump administration's request would save $148 million in Agriculture Department funds intended for animal and plant disease outbreaks that have already been resolved. It would save $252 million at the U.S. Agency for International Development that was appropriated in fiscal 2015 for the Ebola response, which has largely concluded. Another proposal would save $47 million at the Federal Transit Administration from an account that has stagnated for 13 years. Yet another would reclaim taxpayer dollars from a Railroad Retirement Board program that ended in 2012.
Even Democrats recognize the need to spend more consciously. "I wouldn't irrationally oppose a rescission which said we've had money laying in an account that has not been spent in one, two, three years," agreed Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). For a party that's irrationally opposed a lot of things, let's hope this time is different. The U.S. is hitting record spending levels -- and still, Washington comes back to taxpayers demanding more. Well, it's now time for taxpayers to demand more -- from their leaders in the way of fiscal responsibility.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.