By Charles S. Clark
February 7, 2013
While President Obama waits for Congress to restore presidential authority to reorganize departments, some House Republicans focused on deficit reduction are readying their own bills to reduce duplication in agencies and programs.
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, on Tuesday, introduced a still-untitled bill (H.R. 504) designed to save the government $10 billion by consolidating “some duplicative and overlapping government programs” seen as inefficient, based on Government Accountability Office reports from 2011 and 2012.
“The federal government has a serious federal spending problem which has led to an unsustainable level of debt,” Culberson said in a statement. “We spend $10 billion dollars a day, and $4 billion of that is borrowed from countries like China. Our annual income is $2.345 trillion, and 93.3 percent of that is automatically spent to pay for mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Social Security and interest on the national debt. After these obligations are met, we are left with only enough money to fund the federal government for 16.2 days. The rest of the year is funded with borrowed money. It is time to consider long-term solutions.”
His bill, which has four co-sponsors, was referred to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
On Wednesday, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., successfully attached a separate but more detailed bill as an amendment to the Require a Plan Act. The larger bill, offered by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., would put pressure on Obama by requiring the White House to either produce a balanced budget or provide a supplemental budget plan by April 1, 2013, that identifies when their plan would achieve balance.
Fleming’s amendment would add a requirement that the president's supplemental budget under Require a Plan include proposals to consolidate duplicative agency functions and programs. “Reducing duplication in government is low-hanging fruit,” Fleming said on the House floor. “There's bipartisan agreement on this. Even the president in his State of the Union address in 2011 talked about the desire to consolidate the different agencies that oversee salmon.”
Noting that a third GAO report is due in a matter of weeks, Fleming lauded the work of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on pressing for elimination of some of the 132 identified duplicative programs. He acknowledged that the president “does submit a document as part of the budget called, Cuts, Consolidations and Savings,” he said. “But in last year's budget, these savings only amounted to $24 billion, a tiny percentage, 2.2 percent, of our annual trillion-dollar shortfall. That is woefully inadequate.”
Fleming noted that some resistance to cutting such waste comes from “special interests: businesses or industry groups that are arguing for a particular program that benefits them, or a geographic area that benefits from a program that others can't take advantage of, or a group that is adept at leveraging identity politics to protect special preferences. Other times, Congress is its own worst enemy, bickering over jurisdiction and bringing goodies back home.”
Because Congress can’t actually force the consolidations, Fleming continued, he plans to introduce in the coming weeks a bill titled The Realign and Eliminate Duplicative Unnecessary Costly Excess in Government Act, or the REDUCE Government Act. It would create a six-member, bipartisan commission similar to the Pentagon’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission to prepare a list of ineffective or wasteful programs. Congress would then be given 45 days to pass a resolution to approve or disapprove.
The White House has submitted draft legislation restoring authority to combine agencies that the executive branch enjoyed until Congress repealed it in the 1980s. Obama has expressed a desire to begin a reorganization by consolidating agencies dealing with business and trade.
By Charles S. Clark
February 7, 2013