Institute: Trump Personnel Budget Saves Millions

This post originally appeared on the Institute to Reduce Spending.

Last week, the Trump Administration released its annual report on White House Office Personnel, which includes data on the salaries of all 300+ White House employees. The projected four-year savings on the payroll is close to $20 million — which is perhaps a sign that President Trump is serious about finding cuts throughout the federal government.

As Adam Andrzejewski highlighted in a recent op-ed, Trump’s White House has over 100 fewer employees than Obama’s White House in his first year in office. Additionally, First Lady Melania Trump has only five staffers dedicated to her, while First Lady Michelle Obama had employed 24 staffers.

Part of the savings also stem from President Trump — along with Ivanka Trump (First Daughter and Advisor to the President) and Jared Kushner (Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor) — forgoing a salary. Because the President is required to receive a salary, President Trump decided to donate his pay to the Department of Interior for both the construction and repair of military cemeteries.

The White House Office Personnel is only a tiny morsel of the overall budget, but the fact that President Trump is willing to make cuts is encouraging leadership on his part. Fiscal conservatives can hope that this will lead other departments to find ways to save taxpayer money in their own offices and promote fiscal restraint across all sectors of the federal government.

House Budget Deliberations: Unanswered Questions and Grand Implications

Healthcare fights may be capturing the nation’s attention, but there’s another fight on the horizon that divides the Republican party. The House Budget Committee is continuing to work through a standoff over funding levels and will have their work cut out for them because of several factions vying for influence over their deliberations.

While reports Thursday night suggested that committee chairs were coming to agreement, there is a long road ahead, with tax reform and countless other issues hinging on the outcome of these deliberations.

Top-line numbers for non-defense discretionary spending is one such point of contention, as House Republicans want to start at $511 billion, below the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) cap of $516 billion.

Meanwhile, some in the Republican side are insisting on a topline for Pentagon funding at $621.5 billion – or $72.5 billion higher than the limit under the BCA. Some within the party have pushed for an even higher level.

The Senate would require 60 votes in order to break the BCA caps, so getting support for this type of plan would require Democratic support.  This is an unlikely possibility without concessions to raise spending on non-Defense discretionary spending.

Conservative Republicans will not be pleased with this plan. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker has said that the budget committee has already identified $160 billion in politically feasible mandatory spending cuts, and that mandatory savings should be a minimum of $200 billion.

Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are hesitant to break the BCA caps at all, and Budget Chair Diane Black (R-TN) is pushing for an extra $50 billion in cuts to mandatory spending to seek their support, but getting pushback from other committee chairs and the moderate Tuesday Group as a result.

Breaking through all of this conflict will be an incredibly difficult balancing act, and fiscal conservatives will need to keep the pressure on to ensure our voices are heard in the deliberations.

What’s more, this conflict highlights the real difficulty in getting spending cuts, even from Republicans who have run on limited government and responsible budgeting for decades. If neither side is willing to budge from their favorite form of government spending, it will be a serious failure, and voters should take note.



Can we ever repeal Obamacare?

Last Thursday, Senate leadership released their long-awaited version of the House-passed healthcare bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). In large part, the bill is similar to the House version, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), with some key changes.  The Medicaid rollback happens later but is more substantial than in the House version, and the structure of premium tax credits looks more similar to Obamacare than in the House version.

Importantly, the Senate version also does not include the controversial “continuous coverage” provisions the House had used as a replacement for the individual mandate. And the Senate version will cut the deficit more than the House version would have.

The so-called MacArthur amendment set up a new structure for states to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations and helped the AHCA pass the House. In the Senate version, this framework is not included; instead, the Senate would change the structure of existing state opt-outs (known as “1332 waivers”) that were in Obamacare to begin with but rarely used, by switching the burden of proof and seeking to ease the financial burdens of states applying for them.

As expected, the Congressional Budget Office has also projected that millions of people will no longer hold insurance — although it’s important to note both that a large amount of expected changes are due to ending the individual mandate and that these projections can be fairly criticized.

Many of the concerns that fiscal conservatives had with the AHCA remain in this new version and are likely to remain with whatever compromise version eventually passes — assuming the Senate can pass its own version after the July 4th recess. With several Senators already announcing their opposition and the President himself suggesting a different plan Friday morning, there is a rough road ahead.

It’s difficult to say what happens next. And frankly, for fiscal conservatives, it’s deeply disappointing that there is apparently not political will among Republicans to do the thing they have spent the last seven years promising to do.

Major deficit reduction in a time when any cuts are few and far between is worth applauding, but whether one believes this framework is a step toward long-term cost reductions and free-market policy largely depends on one’s perspective and tendency to trust Republican leadership.

If this is, indeed as we have been been assured, both the only framework that can gain a majority and be passed under reconciliation and the first step of many toward free-market, fiscally conservative solutions, then there is room for optimism.

If this framework is the best and last Congress manages to do after promising for nearly a decade to repeal Obamacare root and branch, then we should be very disappointed indeed.

Fiscal conservatives should keep a very close eye as negotiations continue– and push to make the current framework better while making sure no one in Congress is content to stop there.

Senate AHCA “discussion draft” expected Thursday

It’s been a difficult road for the long-awaited Obamacare repeal. After the first, flawed version failed to gain enough support for a vote, difficult negotiations behind the scene were able to squeeze some key fiscally conservative reforms, and the House narrowly passed the updated version.

The Senate has since been negotiating behind closed doors, with early reports suggesting that they might scale back some aspects of the House version.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that a discussion draft of the bill will be released on Thursday with a vote ideally held the following Thursday.

As news breaks that even more providers are pulling out of the struggling Obamacare exchanges, the time is ripe for true, free-market healthcare reform. Whether tomorrow’s version will be a step toward or away from that goal remains to be seen, but anyone who cares about quality healthcare options should keep a close watch.

CRS, 26 other organizations urge CBO to adopt transparency reforms

The Coalition to Reduce Spending was proud to spearhead a bipartisan coalition letter alongside Demand Progress and 25 other organizational signatories, calling for the Congressional Budget Office to take several key steps to improve transparency.

The letter, which can be viewed in full here, suggests among other things that the CBO move toward standardizing URLs, improving search functionality, and providing bulk data for its scores. These types of reforms would be immensely valuable to fiscally conservative organizations as well as transparency and technology advocates.

The letter was delivered to the CBO this morning. The full signatories list is below.

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
American Society of News Editors
Association of Alternative Newsmedia
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Data Innovation
Center for Responsive Politics
Coalition to Reduce Spending
Defense Priorities
Demand Progress
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
Issue One
Lincoln Network
National Taxpayers Union Foundation
Niskanen Center
Project on Government Oversight
R Street Institute
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Sunlight Foundation
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Learn More