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Two weeks ago, the White House was floating a trial balloon for using rescission to cut $25 billion worth of spending. Last week, the White House moved forward with what appears to be a down payment on that plan, where they are initially seeking to surgically claw back some $15 billion worth of spending that was originally appropriated years ago, but which hasn’t ever been spent. The rescission package does not include any of the spending that was approved in February 2018 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Damian Paletta and Erica Werner of the Washington Post describe where the Trump administration is looking to save money for U.S. taxpayers:
President Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.
Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from money created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test innovative payment and service delivery models.
Those are just a handful of the more than 30 programs the White House is proposing to Congress for “rescission,” a process of culling back money that was previously authorized. Once the White House sends the request to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to vote on the plan or a scaled-back version of it through a simple majority vote.
Cuts to programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program sound like they would potentially hurt kids, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in this situation, where thanks to the ineffective bureaucracy that is the U.S. government, it appears that the money will never be able to be spent for the purpose for which it was specifically allocated. Paletta and Werner explain:
The proposed cuts to CHIP would come in part from cutting $5 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Fund, to help reimburse states for certain expenses. But the White House said the ability to use this money expired in September, meaning it can’t be legally used, even as it remains on the government’s balance sheet.
Since the money in these particular government accounts can never be lawfully spent, it makes zero sense for the U.S. Congress to not rescind the money, which can now perhaps be used instead to pay off the portion of the national debt that was borrowed to fund it. It’s not like any of it will ever go to help any kids after all this time!
But perhaps a better question to ask is: why didn’t the government’s bureaucrats spend the money when they were authorized to do so? That they instead let that money sit idle for years without taking any action demands an explanation.
Without such an explanation, the U.S. Congress would have no excuse to not reduce the spending it appropriates. And who knows — perhaps if there is an explanation, it too could also justify reducing the spending it appropriates. Either way, rescission would be a win for U.S. taxpayers.