ICYMI: New GAO report shows massive savings

While budget negotiations drag on and politicians decry the prospect of being forced to look for spending cuts, it’s helpful to revisit a report from just a few weeks ago that shows just how obvious some serious spending reform is.

The Government Accountability Office released its annual report just before Tax Day this year, showing a striking 66 separate ways that the executive branch or Congress could improve efficiency and effectiveness, spanning 24 areas and a wide range of government functions.

Bankrupting America pointed out some key findings, including a $1.6 billion revolving fund at the Treasury for environmental cleanup that was already completed, and the fact that the government has already saved $20 billion by addressing just 37 percent of GAO’s recommendations.

Take a moment to read the entire report here, and keep it in mind whenever any politician claims there’s nowhere to cut.

Budget to avoid fiscal fights?

Some troubling news on the budget front. If sources are accurate, the first budget since the GOP took the Senate will end up dodging any serious spending cuts:

Forget about Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan. The same with other entitlement reforms. And never mind offsetting defense spending increases.

In almost every instance, sources describe a GOP budget deal in which political practicality beats out ideology as Republican leaders tack toward the party’s center now that they’re in control of both chambers. The final agreement was expected to be unveiled Monday evening until Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced he would not sign the deal without explanation.

The agreement will be unwelcome news for gung-ho conservatives and fiscal hawks both in Washington and around the country who’ve called for Republicans to exercise their new power to enact sweeping GOP priorities. And it is unclear if Corker is holding the budget because of such provisions he believes are fiscally irresponsible; he dislikes that Republicans are circumventing budget caps by funneling money into a war account.

But with Republicans hoping to keep control of the Senate in the coming election, and the party still smarting over losing battles with President Barack Obama on government spending and immigration, the GOP is coalescing around a budget that avoids the biggest fights.

Rep. Rogers: “Nowhere to go” to find $20 billion

This is what federal budgeting has come to.

Politicians in Congress are upset about a potential plan to get rid of a budgeting trick known as “CHIMPS,” or Changes-In-Mandatory-Programs. Last year, we joined with 19 other groups urging Congress not to rely on this particularly shady trick.

But now, to hear some politicians tell it, this ability to shift funding from mandatory programs to artificially hike up discretionary spending is the only way they’ll be able to come up with $20 billion.

Just as negotiators are pressing to finalize a Republican budget, several top House appropriators waded into the debate Thursday and warned budget writers to stay away from a vital funding stream — lest they tank the entire appropriations process.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said an obscure budget provision backed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) would make his panel trim another $20 billion beyond what’s already required by the 2011 deficit-reduction law that first reduced, then froze spending for the past few years.

“It’s almost $20 billion that we would have to find from somewhere — and there’s nowhere else to go,” Rogers, (R-Ky.), said off the House floor. “So I’m very concerned. … I keep hoping … we come to another plan … that will ease the pressure on sequestration. But until that happens, the CHIMPS money is really” important.

There are plenty of places to find the $20 billion — and much more — and that’s just low-hanging fruit that many across the political spectrum easily support.

In case anyone is wondering, this perspective is utterly absurd.

Politicians Itch to Soften Spending Limits

In entirely predictable news, it seems like many politicians don’t like accountability.

GOP congressional leaders are racing to approve a budget blueprint for the coming year that abides by strict spending limits, determined to show that the party can maintain fiscal discipline.

But some rank-and-file Republicans are already expressing interest in a much bigger deal that would adjust those caps, sweep away the still-developing blueprint and ease the budgetary pressure on the Pentagon — and, grudgingly, domestic programs if necessary.

Read the rest here.

This is why our cause is so important. As long as deals consist of “I’ll vote for your spending if you’ll vote for mine,” we won’t have true spending reform that’s so desperately needed.


House will hold “open mic” on Defense spending

Fiscal conservatives who want reform of this crucial area of the federal budget should watch carefully tomorrow. From The Hill:

Every member of the House will have the chance on Tuesday to make recommendations for what should be in this year’s defense policy bill, which is produced by members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The annual “Member Day,” which is held like a regular, multi-panel hearing, gives lawmakers who do not sit on the panel the opportunity to advocate for military concerns back in their districts, such as supporting a base or keeping funding for a weapons program.

The event was started so that every lawmaker would have a chance to make the case for “why they wanted things in the bill. And we would listen to them as long as they came,” said former Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who began the tradition and retired at the end of the last Congress.

Like any government department, we know the Pentagon is full of waste and inefficiency. Anyone who cares about the debt should listen closely to their representatives tomorrow.

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