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From time to time my office distributes press releases and written statements on state and national issues, debate in the Senate, and legislation that I am working on. For your convenience, I post these documents on my site for your review.
Sessions Pushes for Limits on Federal Spending
Measure Could Save Taxpayers $5.8 Trillion Over Ten Years
WASHINGTON—A bipartisan proposal to impose legally binding limitations on discretionary spending for fiscal years 2011-2013, reintroduced yesterday by U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is gaining support in the Senate and now appears on the verge of approval.
The amendment, offered as part of broader Senate consideration of an FAA Reauthorization bill, would make it more difficult for Congress to skirt its annual budget, which under current law is difficult to enforce and often ignored. The measure would effectively lock in baseline spending levels for defense- and nondefense-discretionary accounts that were approved in the FY2010 Congressional Budget Resolution, which averaged less than two percent annually.
Sixty-seven votes in the Senate would be required to waive the caps, except in times of designated emergency.
“The American people are deeply concerned about the future of their country. They correctly recognize that the current course of borrowing and spending is leading us toward a budget crisis so profound that it will limit economic growth today and impede opportunities for our children tomorrow,” Sessions said. “This bipartisan amendment is a good first step that imposes reasonable budget limits on a Congress that has demonstrated a striking lack of self-discipline. We can and should do more, but I believe this amendment would be a step in the right direction.”
The bipartisan Sessions/McCaskill proposal narrowly missed approval last month, when it fell one vote shy of the sixty votes needed for passage. The measure was previously defeated by a vote of 56-44 in January. This time, Sessions is optimistic the amendment will be approved.
“Congress is finally starting to hear what the American people have been saying for so long—that this reckless, unsustainable spending cannot continue,” Sessions said. “We’re not going to drop this idea, and I’m hopeful that more of my colleagues will join us this time around.”
Taxpayers stand to see significant savings once the new provisions take effect. Based on historical trends over the last decade—where discretionary appropriations increased by an average of 8.1 percent annually—the spending limits contained in the amendment could save taxpayers as much as $5.8 trillion, if enacted over the next ten years.
The budget enforcement tools are based on similar provisions that have a proven record of success. Five-year discretionary spending caps were first passed as part of a package of reforms in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, but were allowed to expire in 2002. Those caps held spending growth to one to two percent annually for twelve years, and helped produce four balanced budgets in the 1990s.
A bipartisan group of budget watchdogs has endorsed the plan as a positive step towards budget responsibility. Supporters include the National Taxpayers Union, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Heritage Foundation, and the Concord Coalition. Budget experts Alice Rivlin, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Alan Viard are also backing the proposal.
The amendment would impose separate caps on both baseline defense- and nondefense-discretionary spending. Baseline defense-discretionary spending would be limited to $564,293,000,000 in 2011; $573,612,000,000 in 2012; and $584,421,000,000 in 2013. Baseline nondefense-discretionary spending would be limited to $529,662,000,000 in 2011; $533,232,000,000 in 2012; and $540,834,000,000 in 2013.
The amendment does not affect spending related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or military activities in areas where Congress has authorized the use of force, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
The provisions included in the amendment are designed to complement broader efforts to close the long-term budget gap. Discretionary spending currently accounts for about one-third of federal outlays, and many experts believe Congress must rein in this spending in order to balance its budget.
A Senate vote on the amendment is expected next week.
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