Congress has no choice but to pass the $15 billion rescissions package

Congress has no choice but to pass the $15 billion rescissions package
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Following the disastrous fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill, taxpayers were rightly outraged that Washington was busting the budget caps and exploding the national debt, and they demanded that tangible action be taken to reduce perennially wasteful government spending.

Congress has a chance to alleviate at least some of the concern over Washington’s inability to cut spending by approving President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE’s $15 billion rescissions package before the statutory deadline of June 22. While nothing is ever simple or obvious on Capitol Hill, there is no excuse for failing to vote in favor of cutting money that was not spent, is unlikely to be spent, and has been superseded by new expenditures.

It is not the first time, nor should it be the last, that Congress votes on a rescission bill. The last president who proposed a rescissions package was President Clinton in 2000. Following the enactment of the Budget Impoundment and Control Act in 1974 through 2000, presidents have proposed 1,174 rescissions, totaling $76 million. Congress has accepted 461 rescissions, saving American taxpayers $25 million. President Reagan submitted the largest dollar amount, $43.4 billion, while President Clinton had the highest acceptance rate, 67 percent.

President Trump’s rescissions proposal cuts wasteful programs, including more than a dozen that Citizens Against Government Waste has identified in its annual database and congressional pig book. The package includes $523 million in energy loans from the 2009 stimulus package, $86 million in unspent transportation earmarks, $30 million for economic development assistance grants, and $13 million for high energy cost grants, all of which exemplify Washington’s profligate spending.

Support for the rescissions package should be bipartisan, and there are signs it actually is. In April, House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on MORE (D-Md.) expressed his support for rescinding funds that have been sitting unspent, saying, “I wouldn’t irrationally oppose a rescission which said we’ve had money laying in an account that has not been spent for one, two, three years, we shouldn’t just have it sitting in that account.”

All the rescissions being proposed by President Trump meet Hoyer’s standards. As the rescissions submission states, the funds are “unobligated balances from prior year appropriations” that are “no longer needed for the purpose for which it was appropriated by the Congress” and which have “been left unspent by agencies for years.” Some of the programs are low priority and nonessential.

The outcries over the rescission of funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are a red herring. The authorization for $5.1 billion in CHIP funds expired last September. In January, Congress passed a six-year extension of CHIP as part of the continuing resolution for fiscal 2018. The renewal of the program will end up saving taxpayers $6 billion over 10 years. President Trump has also agreed to modify his initial request to accommodate unspent funds for Hurricane Sandy disaster aid and wastewater treatment grants before the House of Representatives brings the legislation to the floor for a vote.

The package does not contain any spending that was included in the omnibus spending bill, although additional rescission proposals are desperately needed to reverse wasteful expenditures in that gargantuan piece of legislation as well. Unless Congress approve President Trump’s first rescission package on a bipartisan basis, taxpayers will continue to lose faith in the ability of elected officials to restore the nation’s financial health. This rescissions package certainly will not solve our longstanding fiscal problems, but it would be a small step in the right direction.

Tom Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.