Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has introduced H.R. 2505, the “Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act,” a bill that would empower Congress to shrink the size and scope of the federal government. Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges its passage.
Congress establishes federal programs via authorization bills. These programs can be authorized to operate for a specific period of time or indefinitely. After the programs are established, Congress then authorizes the appropriation of money to fund the programs.
Congress routinely appropriates money to programs that are no longer authorized. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress appropriated $340.7 billion to 261 programs or activities with expired authorizations in Fiscal Year 2018.
H.R. 2505 would defund these zombie programs by putting all unauthorized programs on a pathway to sunset in 3 years. After the first year, an unauthorized program’s budget is reduced by 10 percent. In the second and third year, its budget decreases by 15 percent until sunsetting at the end of the third year. If Congress decides to reauthorize the program during this three-year period, the program ceases to sunset and remains fully funded.
H.R. 2505 also establishes a Spending Accountability Commission (SAC) with three main objectives: establishing an authorization schedule of all discretionary programs, conducting reviews of all mandatory spending programs, and assisting Congress in finding prudent spending cuts to mandatory programs. The SAC would be responsible for maintaining a three-year schedule for discretionary federal programs, and would offer proposed cuts in mandatory spending in the event Congress cannot agree on reauthorizing a program.
If implemented, H.R. 2505 would establish a three-year reauthorization cycle for all discretionary programs. At the end of the three-year period, the sunset and sequestration cycle would begin if the program is not reauthorized. If Congress wishes to override the sequester, it must agree to mandatory spending cuts as reported by the SAC.
With the national debt at over $22 trillion and counting, Congress must work on streamlining and reducing government spending as much as possible. While Democrats control the House of Representatives, relying on Congress to reduce spending in and of itself is a difficult proposition, which is why an automatic sunset and sequestration period for unauthorized programs is necessary. H.R. 2505 is an important piece of taxpayer-friendly legislation that sets Congress back on a path of fiscal accountability. Congress should swiftly pass it, and President Trump should sign it into law.