New House Rules Focus Members on Making Serious Spending Cuts | Citizens Against Government Waste

New House Rules Focus Members on Making Serious Spending Cuts

The WasteWatcher

On election day, taxpayers turned out in droves to support fiscally conservative candidates that they entrusted with the responsibility of cutting the federal budget, reducing the size of the national debt, and returning Congress to the hands of the American people. Charged with these critical tasks, the 112th Congress has agreed to new rules and proposed debt-busting legislation in an effort to restore some semblance of fiscal sanity.

The 111th Congress will be notoriously remembered for pushing through massive bills that were never read by members of Congress, debated on the House floor, or subject to public scrutiny. In an effort to turn the tide, on January 5, 2011 the House opened its session by passing H. Res. 5, a rules package for the 112th Congress that includes new measures to help members cut spending and limit the growth of government.

The rules implement commonsense procedures that will help to safeguard taxpayers, promote transparency and hold members accountable for their spending decisions. H. Res. 5 allows members to call a point of order against any unreported bill that has not been made available to members for at least three calendar days. Additionally, committee chairs must make a public announcement of the date, place, and subject matter of a committee meeting three days before it occurs, make the bill text available at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of the markup of legislation in committee, and make votes available in electronic format 48 hours after recorded in committee.

H. Res. 5 also requires all bill and joint resolution sponsors to submit for the Congressional Record “a statement citing as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress to enact the bill or joint resolution.” This constitutional citation will be necessary in order to introduce a bill, thereby limiting time spent on frivolous and overreaching legislation.

The rules will help control the nation’s ballooning $14 trillion debt by eliminating the “Gephardt Rule” and requiring the House to specifically vote to increase the debt limit. Additionally, the package replaces pay-as-you-go (PAYGO), which previously allowed mandatory spending increases to be paid for with tax increases, with cut-as-you-go (CUTGO), prohibiting the consideration of legislation that would increase net mandatory spending over the one-, five-, or ten-year budget windows.

Transportation funding has long been a black hole for taxpayer dollars. H. Res. 5 will place transportation spending under the same budget process as other spending so that it would no longer be guaranteed a minimum level of funding, and create a point of order against trust fund revenues being spent on other federal programs.

The comprehensive House rules reforms set the tone for a new Congress which is desperately seeking a fresh start with the American public. There has already been a flurry of activity as members have introduced bills that demonstrate their commitment to cut spending, reduce the national debt and minimize waste.

Two days after the new rules were passed, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) introduced H.R. 235, the Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending (CUTS) Act of 2011, a bill that aims to reduce federal spending by $153 billion over five years. The bill would shrink the federal workforce by 10 percent, cut White House and Congressional budgets, freeze pay for federal workers and Congress, sell excess federal property, cut programs that are obsolete or duplicative, reduce Department of Defense procurement funding by 15 percent, ensure collection of unpaid federal taxes from federal workers, deny unemployment benefits to millionaires, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and cap government printing and federal travel costs.

Many of the spending reductions included in the CUTS Act were originally targeted for elimination by the Bush and Obama administrations and highlighted in the December 2010 bi-partisan deficit reduction commission report. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should therefore not hesitate to support these important spending cuts.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC) followed Rep. Brady’s lead, introducing H.R. 408, the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 on January 24, 2011. This bill, sponsored by RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), cites many of the recommendations from the RSC Sunset Caucus, YouCut program and past RSC budgets to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over ten years.

The Spending Reduction Act would hold FY 2011 non-security discretionary spending to FY 2008 levels and hold non-defense discretionary spending to FY 2006 levels. The bill also contains more than 100 program eliminations and savings proposals, including eliminating all remaining “stimulus” funding, relinquishing federal control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, getting rid of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Amtrak subsidies, abolishing the Save America’s Treasures Program, cutting the federal travel budget in half, repealing the Davis-Bacon Act, requiring collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees, prohibiting taxpayer-funded union activities by federal employees, and eliminating the Market Access Program and funding for ObamaCare administrative costs.

The Spending Reduction Act and the CUTS Act draw on many of the recommendations made in CAGW’s 2010 Prime Cuts, a proprietary database comprised of 763 recommendations that would save taxpayers $350 billion in the first year and $2.2 trillion over five years. While both pieces of legislation are an important start to curtailing Washington’s spending addiction, we hope lawmakers will continue to use Prime Cuts as a blueprint to put the nation on a path toward fiscal sanity.

Members of the 112th Congress have lofty goals: slashing the ever-growing national debt is no simple chore, but it is a vital one. If the House fails to enforce its new rules or make significant spending cuts, it will leave taxpayers holding the largest tab in American history and place the future of the U.S. economy in serious jeopardy. It is time for lawmakers to prove they can set aside partisan politics, special interests and sacred cows and, for the first time, put everything out on the table for consideration. The Spending Reduction Act and the CUTS Act make commonsense recommendations that every member should support. If lawmakers can’t agree to make these spending cuts, they will never be able to tackle the nation’s major spending and entitlement programs that are weighing heavy on Americans’ minds and wallets.

-- Erica Gordon