House Committee Approves Budget Process Legislation

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Last week the House Budget Committee approved the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011.  Sponsored by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the legislation creates an expedited process for Congress to act on spending cuts proposed by the President.

The President currently has the authority to propose rescissions, which cancel funding
previously provided in legislation.  However, the authority is used infrequently and Congress has  developed a habit of ignoring the requests.  

The Ryan-Van Hollen legislation improves the process by creating expedited legislative procedures for Congress to consider rescissions proposed by the President.  Within 45 days of enactment of an appropriations bill, the President could transmit a message to Congress proposing a rescission of any amount of funding included in the bill.  Congress would then be required to vote on the recommendations without amendments.   Any savings that result are intended for deficit reduction, and budget resolution allocations and statutory caps on discretionary spending would be adjusted downward to reflect the rescissions.   

The Concord Coalition has previously supported similar proposals establishing an expedited process for considering spending cuts.  However, enhanced rescission authority would do little to address the underlying structural deficit resulting from existing tax and entitlement laws.  The House legislation is a positive step, though the proposal would be more effective if its focus on discretionary spending were broadened to include special-interest tax breaks and mandatory spending increases.

Also last week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) proposed a measure to extend the special legislative procedures that would have applied if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction had produced a plan. Under Lieberman’s proposal, bipartisan legislation to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion could be considered by Congress using procedures that would guarantee a vote while limiting debate and prohibiting amendments.

External links:
House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan’s Statement on Advancement of Bipartisan Budget Reform
Statement of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen
Robert Bixby’s Testimony before a Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee
Statement of Senator Joseph Lieberman

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