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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Stopping Unauthorized Appropriations

June 5, 2013

Stopping Unauthorized Appropriations 

Congressman Tom McClintock
June 5, 2013
Mr. Speaker: 
          I want to commend the House Leadership for its continuing commitment to restore the open appropriations process.
          That process is absolutely essential if the House is to meet its Constitutional responsibility to superintend the nation’s finances.  It assures that the people’s elected representatives can provide the maximum scrutiny of every public expenditure.
          In the recent past, this process has given way to “continuing resolutions” that simply rubber-stamp past federal spending, thus abrogating Congress’ most fundamental fiscal responsibility.  For this reason, I, for one, will not support any continuing resolutions of this nature.  The regular order over the nation’s finances must be re-asserted and the open appropriations process that begins in the House this week does so.
          That process, though, is the final step in the procedures established to assure our nation’s spending gets careful scrutiny.
          The first step in that process – and the most important – is when programs are authorized or re-authorized: legislation must first be adopted that establishes the programs for which money is subsequently appropriated.  
          This is an absolutely critical function that assures federal programs are constantly being scrutinized and that Congress is asking: are these programs effective? Are they meeting their goals? Are they worthwhile? Are they worth the money we’re paying?  Most programs have time limits on them to assure that these questions are periodically asked.
          The legal authorization is the green light to the appropriations committee to provide funding for that program. 
          Since 1835, the Rules of the House have limited appropriations to only those purposes actually authorized by law.  Unless and until the program is authorized, the House may not appropriate funds for it under this long-standing rule.
          Yet this rule is routinely ignored by the appropriations committee and by the House.  
          Last year, the eleven appropriations bills reported out of committee contained over $350 billion for programs that had either never been authorized, or whose authorizations had lapsed years, and sometimes decades ago. 
          Many of these are vital programs whose reauthorizations should be routine.  But many are not.
          For example, the Community Development Block Grant program (that paid for a “Doggie Day Care Center” in Ohio and “A Day at the Circus” for Nyack, New York) lapsed eighteen years ago, and yet every year we keep funding it lavishly.
          Most of the outrageous waste of taxpayer money that end up in various “pork” reports stem from these lapsed programs.  They are established, they are forgotten, but the spending keeps on year after year.
          The excuse for this conduct is that the authorizing committees have simply failed to attend to their duties of keeping authorizations current, including for a number of critical functions.  So the appropriations committee takes it upon itself to continue to fund them.
          What is to prevent this?  The House Rules allow any member the right to raise a point of order against ANY unauthorized expenditure.  But this right is stripped from members EVERY TIME an appropriations bill is sent to the House floor, making the rule meaningless and unenforceable.
          It has now reached the point that more than one third of the discretionary spending approved by the House is for purposes NOT authorized by law.
          This fact makes a mockery of the Leadership’s efforts to restore regular order to the appropriations process.
          I would urge the Speaker of the House to  direct the authorizing committees to bring the authorizations current for every program within their respective jurisdictions and to give them a year to do so.
          If, after a full year, the authorizing committees don’t believe the programs are worth the time to review, maybe that’s just nature’s way of warning us that they’re also not worth the money that we continue to shovel at them.   
          And once they have had that year to review these unauthorized programs – and to either renew them, reform them, or let them die – I urge the House to restore the right of every member to challenge unauthorized appropriations on the House floor as the House Rules clearly envision and provide.  
          Americans elected a House Republican majority with one clear mandate: TO STOP WASTING MONEY.  To be worthy of that trust, we can’t allow hundreds of billions of dollars to bypass the minimal Congressional review that the authorizing process provides.  
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