The catfish (inspection program) that survived commonsense
© Getty Images

There is always a sigh of relief from taxpayers at the end of a Congressional term.  This year, citizens are especially anxious as the new Congress and President prepare to take office with the promise of draining the swamp and getting rid of wasteful government spending.

One last order of business to be done before 2016 is over is to eliminate the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) duplicative Catfish inspection program. Rarely has House leadership been so poised to squander an opportunity to do the right thing.


Repeal of USDA’s catfish inspection program has been the focus of ten Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports, the target of every respectable good government group and the focus of a clear majority in the Senate and House that want it eliminated.

The program is a duplicative waste of tax dollars that forces USDA to do a job the Food and Drug Administration already does. In the process, according to GAO, USDA makes things less safe; “…the agency’s proposed catfish inspection program further fragments the federal oversight system for food safety without demonstrating that there is a problem with catfish or a need for a new federal program.”

So, there’s a program that spends about $200 million tax dollars over a decade having two agencies do one job.  There are a myriad of American companies complaining that this burdensome over-regulation is a job killer.  Killing the program is as simple as House leadership scheduling a vote. Yet, for some reason, House leadership won’t bring it to a vote.

In May the Senate voted for a Congressional Review Act (CRA) measure that would do away with the program. Meanwhile more than 220 members of the House have written to leadership asking that they be allowed to vote on the CRA. The bottom line is that the Senate wants the program dismantled, the House wants the program done away with and taxpayers are sick and tired of business as usual in Washington and deserve to see Congress do its job.

But as the clock winds down, House leadership reverts to nonsensical arguments about why they won’t hold a vote on getting rid of this program. They say it will cause party disunity, despite the fact that the congressional assemblage that wrote them includes a majority of the majority. They say it’s not a correct use of the CRA, despite the fact that parliamentarians say the exact opposite and note that not voting on it would set a bad precedent.

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee takes up the issue of getting rid of this wasteful and duplicative program in a hearing today, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial noted that, “repealing the catfish boondoggle is basic hygiene.”  Perhaps, the first order of draining the swamp should begin with the USDA Catfish program.

David Williams is the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the government’s effects on the economy.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.