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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Addressing Wasteful Spending Through Rescissions

May 16, 2018
Weekly Columns
Every year, Congress is responsible for establishing legislation through its Appropriations Committees that will fund the federal government for the fiscal year. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I know that the committee is diligent to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used responsibly and for good purposes. Reducing excessive spending and finding places where cuts can be made remains a goal of mine every year, which is critical to addressing the federal debt and long-term spending problems. However, many government programs have money that has been appropriated in the past but never spent. President Trump and his Administration have decided to address these unspent monies through a historic ‘rescissions’ package.
Rescissions authority is given to the President under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. This act allows the President to request Congress to rescind money from previously appropriated funding. However, Congress must create the legislative vehicle to do so. After the President submits his request, Congress has 45 days to act upon it. Last week, President Trump asked Congress to rescind more than $15 billion – the most significant request in the history of rescission.
Unfortunately, many federal programs exist without up to date authorization to continue functions and provide services. Some have fulfilled their purposes and obligations. Because of this, many of these programs have unused funds that will not be spent and have been sitting in accounts for prolonged periods of time. A rescissions package will support reining in excess funds and target the areas where spending should be reduced or eliminated.
President Trump’s rescissions proposal identifies programs that have excess funds that unused or cannot be used for its original purpose. For example, the ‘Railroad Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits’ has 133 million dollars of unobligated balances since the program expired in 2012. The ‘Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program’ has not extended a new loan since 2011, yet has a balance of 4.3 billion dollars in unused funds. Taking those funds back will be helpful in reducing the debt and highlights the importance of appropriating money responsibly in the future.
It is important to note that these rescissions only target authorized and appropriated spending from previous years, and does not violate the budget agreement negotiated by the Administration and Republican leadership in both the Senate and the House in February of this year. Finding ways to properly spend federal funds is key to balancing our national budget and preventing wasteful spending. I support President Trump’s proposal to rein in wasteful spending. I look forward to working with him to move this rescissions package ahead and continue to establish responsible spending habits for our government.