Today, the White House and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has sent Congress a rescissions package totaling $15.4 billion. In a letter to the President, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney summarized the importance of the proposal:
“As demonstrated in your first two Budgets, the Administration is committed to ensuring the Federal Government spends precious taxpayer dollars in the most efficient, effective manner possible. Given the long-term fiscal constraints facing our Nation, we must use all available means to put our fiscal house back in order. “
The rescissions package is an attempt to strip “low-hanging fruit” from the budget — specifically, to cut unobligated balances, or funding that is no longer necessary for the purpose in which it was appropriated. In many instances, this money continues to be appropriated, even if agencies haven’t spent it for many years. The Department of Energy’s loan program for Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing is one such example, still receiving funding despite not making a loan since 2011.
The White House proposal also targets Department of Agriculture programs that were previously made available for animal and plant disease outbreaks that are no longer a threat. It would rescind more than $160 million in unobligated subsidy amounts for the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, as well as wasteful funds from the Public Housing Capital Fund under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Appalachian Development Highway System from the Department of Transporation, and the Treasury Forfeiture Fund from the Department of the Treasury.
While the size of the rescissions package pales in comparison to the increases in the spending caps passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 in February, it represents an attempt by the administration to at least walk back more egregious examples of waste in the subsequent omnibus — now it’s up to Congress to act. Though these rescissions mostly deal with unobligated amounts, it’s clear they would move the needle in a positive direction.
Congress has a rare chance to pass fiscally conservative policy — which would likely be seen as a win going into the 2018 midterm elections. The Administration is right to target such low-hanging fruit, and the House and Senate should do their part by approving the recissions package as soon as possible.