Reform in Mandatory Spending / Speaker’s Organizational Task Force
Budget Proposal - Memo to the Speaker's Organizational Task Force (see also Memo on Reform in Unauthorized Appropriations)
TO: Speaker’s Organizational Task Force
FM: Tom McClintock
RE: Reform in Mandatory Spending
DT: May 18, 2016
I propose to bring mandatory spending under the same congressional control that we currently exercise over discretionary spending.
FIRST: The budget committee, in consultation with committees of jurisdiction, would set overall spending levels for mandatory programs and offer suggestions of how to achieve those levels, as is currently done.
SECOND: Once the budget is enacted, the committees of jurisdiction would prepare statutory changes in mandatory programs to meet the targets set in the budget, just as they do for reconciliation.
THIRD: The statutory changes in mandatory programs reported by the committees of jurisdiction would then be transmitted to the Appropriations Committee, which would incorporate them into the appropriate appropriations bills.
FOURTH: Amendments would be in order on the House floor to modify or supplement these changes to the extent they keep within the enacted budget levels.
How does this differ from reconciliation? This process is in addition to the existing reconciliation process. It would place mandatory spending changes directly into the individual appropriations bills to keep within the budget. Reconciliation would still be available as an expedited process to fill in any gaps between the budget document and current law.
Doesn’t this make the Appropriations Committee a giant authorizing committee? No. The Appropriations Committee simply fulfills a ministerial function of incorporating the changes from the authorizing committees into the relevant appropriations bills. It passes them through in the same manner as the Budget Committee passes through statutory changes reported by authorizing committees during reconciliation.
Couldn’t the Senate strip out these provisions? Yes, and these differences would be resolved at conference, just as any other differences between the houses. Reconciliation would remain available to fill in any gaps.
Doesn’t this complicate the already difficult process of adopting appropriations bills? Yes and no. Additional provisions often bring additional controversies – but they also can bring additional support. It may actually make the process easier, because it would allow increases in discretionary spending to be offset by decreases in mandatory spending in the same bill, offering broader ground for consensus. And clearly, it would make adoption of the budget easier because it offers much greater flexibility in trading discretionary and mandatory spending levels.
How would this work on the floor? Statutory changes could be amended in the same manner as any other provision of the appropriations bills, but would only be in order to the extent that the changes are necessary to meet the spending targets already agreed to in the enacted budget.
What rules changes would be required? House Rule XXI (2)(b) would need to be modified to allow these statutory changes to be included in appropriations bills, and a provision should be added to the House rules that specifies this process. It would not require Senate action or presidential approval.