Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) introduced legislation late last week that would prevent the Treasury Department from spending donations from private citizens aimed at reducing the U.S. budget deficit.

Ruppersberger said Treasury right now is "misusing" these donations because under current law, they are deposited in Treasury's general fund, which allows Treasury to spend the money as it receives it. His bill would create a separate account where donated funds would be deposited that can only be used for deficit reduction.

The amount of donations is small compared to the $14.7 trillion debt. Treasury gets about 20 to 30 donations each month toward paying down the debt, and the average gift is less than $500, according to Ruppersberger's office.

Treasury has said the donated money does not go to deficit reduction, but has said the government's ability to use the money means it does not have to borrow as much.

"Americans choose every day to donate their hard-earned money to help retire our federal deficit," Ruppersberger said. "They are doing this in the spirit of patriotism and love for their country, such as a war veteran in gratitude for a recent surgery. This bill will protect these generous donations and make sure they are actually used to pay down the debt — not for future spending."

Ruppersberger said that since President Kennedy created the voluntary donation program in 1961, $81.7 million has been donated to help pay down the federal deficit.

His bill, H.R. 2879, is only one line long: It would amend U.S. code to "require that money and proceeds from gifts given to reduce the public debt are only deposited into the account established for those gifts."