Congress is in the midst of debating spending levels in a fiscal year (FY) 2014 continuing resolution.
It’s no surprise that the two chambers disagree over how much to spend and funding for the President’s damaging health care law. The Senate proposes to spend $1.058 trillion, dismissing the spending caps and sequestration required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The House has offered legislation that would fund the government until December 15 at $986.3 billion. The trouble is that the post-sequestration level for FY 2014 is $967 billion. Lawmakers can get there, though, by terminating federal programs that are run poorly or are not responsibilities of the federal government in the first place.
The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Louis Knudsen has identified long-overdue program terminations that, if implemented, would enable Congress to save $42 billion—more than it needs to get to the strict FY 2014 spending target. The full list of proposed terminations can be found here, along with the estimated one-year savings.
Terminating some programs—such as contributions to Commodity Organizations, including the International Coffee Organization—would yield only modest savings ($2 million), but it would be a step in the right direction. Others, such as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ($2.3 billion), would bring in large savings and get the government out of the business of commercializing energy technologies, for example.
Slight improvements in the federal budget deficit as of late will not last long, and they are in part the result of spending caps and sequestration—the very cuts the Senate wants to dismantle. Even with sequestration, though, federal spending is on course to grow by nearly 70 percent in the next 10 years: from $3.5 trillion in 2013 to $5.9 trillion in 2023. Entitlement program spending is driving these spending increases, and Congress should implement serious reforms to programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The Senate’s efforts to do away with fiscal restraint under the Budget Control Act would “make a mockery of the agreement to restrain spending because spending would have only be reduced for one year,” as Senator Tom Coburn (R–OK) wrote recently. Coburn continues:
This is an all too familiar Washington narrative that explains why our national debt is nearly $17 trillion.… Congress cannot break its commitment to restrain spending while expecting another debt limit increase to pay for its broken promises with even more borrowed money.
Not reining in spending in 2014, when the entitlement spending and debt crises are looming, is irresponsible. Myriad options for cutting spending exist, and Congress can and should make them without sacrificing the defense budget further. While the House has given in to higher Senate spending levels before, now is not the time to repeat that mistake.