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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Freezing Unauthorized Spending

July 10, 2014

Congressman McClintock offered an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to freeze spending at the previous year's level on programs that are unauthorized, until the programs are reviewed by authorizing committees as required by House rules. Some of the programs on auto pilot spending have not been authorized by authorizing committees since 1980.  There is currently $350 billion in House unauthorized spending in total, $24 billion in the Water and Power appropriations bill.   The Congressman's remarks in support of the amendment are attached:

Amendment to Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

Freezing Unauthorized Spending

July 9, 2014


Mr. Chairman:


Ever since 1835, the Rules of the House have forbidden spending money for purposes UNAUTHORIZED by current law.  Yet last year, the 11 appropriations bills reported out of the House Appropriations Committee contained over $350 billion for spending on unauthorized programs.

The rule against unauthorized spending cannot be enforced because it is always waived by the resolutions bringing appropriations to the floor.

The bill before us today contains $24 billion in such unauthorized spending in programs that have not been reviewed by the authorizing committees since as far back as 1980, Jimmy Carter’s last year as President. 

I’m sure that some of these programs are valuable and worthy of taxpayer dollars.  But surely others are not.  The fact that they have not been authorized in as much as 35 years ought to warn us to at least be a little more careful in continuing to fund them.

Rather than reviewing our spending decisions and making tough choices about spending priorities, Congress simply rubber-stamps these programs out of habit.  It is no wonder we are so deeply in debt with so little to show for it.

My amendment does not de-fund these unauthorized programs as the House Rules would require.  It simply freezes spending on them at last year’s level.  

The cuts contained in this amendment total $121 million, or about 36/100ths of one percent of the total spending in this bill.  

If, year after year, the authorizing committees haven’t found these programs worth the time to reauthorize, then maybe that’s just nature’s way of saying they aren’t worth the money we’re shoveling at them either!  

It is the proper role of the House of Representatives to control the purse strings of our government, but we do a disservice to our constituents when we allow this kind of spending growth to occur on autopilot, absent any oversight or congressional authorization.  

I look forward to the day when Congress will again reassert its constitutional prerogative to control federal spending and enforce its own rules to prohibit spending blindly on unauthorized programs.  

However, in the meantime, adopting this amendment, shaving just 36/100ths of one percent of this appropriation by freezing spending on unauthorized programs, will be a small, symbolic step toward reclaiming the House’s responsibility to act as the watchdog of the nation’s treasury.

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