09.30.2010 0

Federal Spending Cuts Should Start With Capitol Hill

  • On: 10/15/2010 08:30:32
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • By Rebekah Rast

    The nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty ends with Humpty falling off a wall and breaking into so many pieces that it was impossible to put him back together again.

    Judging by the polls, it is reasonable to think that Republicans could take over the House majority in the upcoming elections. If they do, their task is a tall one, in which they would have to take a broken America and put it back together again. Only unlike the townspeople who gave up trying to put Humpty back together again, America cannot afford for the Republicans to give up or fail.

    Republicans released the 2010 agenda, A Pledge to America. Now it is important that they begin planning ways to trim federal spending and start the arduous task of fixing the country.

    One good place to start would be to have all of Congress turn around and look in the mirror. Yes, the legislative branch spending allocations have steadily increased since Democrats took over the House in 2007.

    The latest Republican Congress appropriated $3.07 billion for FY2007 for the Legislative Branch. The current Democrat Congress appropriated $4.7 billion for FY2010 for the Legislative Branch. That’s a 34 percent increase in just three years.

    As many American families are barely scraping by, spending as frugally as possible, Congress felt it necessary during the past few years to give itself more money to spend on things like office supplies, staff salaries and building remodels.

    “It is just more evidence showing how far out of touch Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are that they dramatically increased spending on themselves and their staffs while the rest of America is forced to cut back,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

    While the legislative branch appropriations were being decided upon in 2009 for FY2010, not all agreed that an increase in funds was necessary at that time.

    Politico reported in 2009 that Sen. John McCain said, “The growth of expenditures particularly in these times is terrible.” Nevertheless, the appropriations passed and Capitol Hill received a nice raise.

    How else was the $4.7 billion allocated to the legislative branch spent this year? The Politico article went onto report that a $500,000 pilot program for Senators to send out postcards about their town hall meetings and $30,000 for receptions for foreign dignitaries was included in the funding. As well as an additional $50 million allocated to renovate the Cannon House Office Building.

    Those who supported the appropriations claim that the increases were modest and weren’t even the full amount the President had initially asked for. A Hill article reports Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a member of the Committee on Appropriations and Chairwoman of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, said, “This bill reflects an acknowledgment that the legislative branch must set itself as an example for fiscal constraint while continuing to serve the nation.”

    I don’t think the American people bought it as a good example to follow, especially for fiscal restraint. Spending less than what the White House requested isn’t much of an accomplishment given its current spending record and debt tab.

    The year ahead doesn’t look much better. For Fiscal Year 2011, approximately $5.12 billion was requested for legislative branch operations. This is an increase of 10 percent over the FY2010 level of $4.656 billion.

    Though, in a rush to hit the campaign trail, Congress has yet to pass the appropriations bill for the legislative branch, along with most the appropriations bills for other government departments in need of a budget for 2011.

    Instead, a Continuing Resolution (CR) was put into place to keep the government from shutting down by allowing all departments to keep functioning at their current budget levels. However, the CR runs out in December, meaning Congress will revisit all appropriations bills during a lame-duck session.

    Another 10 percent increase for the legislative branch is not the answer to fixing America’s problems. Though still in the minority during the lame-duck session, hopefully Republicans will be taking copious notes on what not to do for the following years ahead.

    Republican leadership gave no response when asked to comment about whether or not they would be willing to cut, or at least freeze, the legislative branch budget.

    Federal spending has got to be cut down and it has to start somewhere. If Congress really wants to set a good example for its constituents, then it should make significant cuts to its own budget. Elected officials can’t empathize with their voters by placing themselves on a pedestal where the issues facing the rest of the country can’t reach them.

    If Republicans do take the majority in the upcoming elections, they have their work cut out for them. Unlike a funny child’s nursery rhyme, America needs to be put back together again and Congress cannot fail.

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to the Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau.

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