By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Yesterday Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery sponsored new legislation which would encourage a more transparent budgeting process in the federal government by eliminating 9 commonly used “budget gimmicks.”
Representative Roby announced her new bill in a press conference flanked by over twenty of her conservative freshmen Republican colleagues, including Rep. Mo Brooks from Alabama’s 5th district. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who has sponsored similar legislation in the Senate was also there as well as other Senators who are supportive of the legislation.
Congresswoman Roby said, “My constituents are frustrated with the dysfunction in Washington. Working families and small business owners are miffed that Congress can’t pass a budget or spend within its means. They see politicians talk about budget savings and future spending cuts that never materialize,” Roby said. “The American people deserve a government that shoots straight, and they want a budget that is reliable, genuine, and accountable. The Honest Budget Act takes Sen. Sessions’ commonsense approach to the problem and extends it to the House of Representatives, where revenue and spending bills are first considered.”
“Congress, as an institution, is a sick patient. We learned over the last year that the House and Senate are plagued by loopholes and gimmicks that are deeply engrained in the rules of the two chambers. Exploiting those gimmicks is widely accepted and has become commonplace,” Roby said. “Honesty, accountability, and transparency are the cure—and the Honest Budget Act is one way to deliver that medicine.”
There have been years of budget committee meetings and hearings on the budget, even though the United States Senate has not actually passed a budget for the federal government in over 1000 days. Through the process of analyzing the budget process, commonly used “tricks” in the appropriations process have become apparent. Sen. Sessions who is the Ranking Member on the Senate Budget Committee introduced legislation last year to abolish these deceptive practices. His bill has stalled in committee in the Democrat controlled United States Senate. Representative Roby’s legislation will begin in the U.S. House of Representatives which has passed much more legislation in the last year than the Senate has. If it passes in the House it will still have to be passed by the Senate before it can reach President Barack H. Obama’s desk.
Rep. Roby explained in her press release that, “Among other provisions, the Honest Budget Act would make it harder for Congress to pass spending bills without first passing a budget, would reveal the real cost and commitment of federal government spending, and would prevent Congress from claiming savings unless those savings are real and genuine.”
Senator Sessions said in a statement Monday “An honest analysis tells us that spending is set to increase by 53 percent over the next ten years, producing an estimated $11.4 trillion in new gross debt. This is dangerously unsustainable. On February 13th the president will face a crucial test, one that will define the character of his presidency: will he finally submit a budget that brings our stratospheric spending back down to earth? Or will he continue to grow the government and bring America tragically closer to ‘the most predictable economic crisis in its history?’”
The latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Budget and Economic Outlook report predicts $800 billion in deficit reduction by massively increasing taxes, “much of the projected decline in the deficit occurs because, under current law, revenues are projected to shoot up by almost $800 billion, or more than 30 percent, between 2012 and 2014—from 16.3 percent of GDP in 2012 to 20.0 percent in 2014. That increase is mostly the result of the recent or scheduled expirations of tax provisions, such as those initially enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2009 that lower income tax rates and those that limit the number of people subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT).” If Congress does nothing the Bush tax cuts will expire, Obama’s temporary Social Security Tax cut will expire, and millions more Americans will lose their deductions when they become subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax. According to Senator Sessions it is not realistic to believe that Congress will increase income and payroll taxes across the board by over 23% on January 1 during a weak economic recovery. According to the CBO report, even such a massive tax increase would not lead to a single year where the budget is balanced in the next decade. The current National debt is $15.3 trillion and that number is expected to increase this year by over another $trillion.
Conservative Republicans, like Rep. Roby, would prefer to address the growing budget deficit by slowing the growth in federal spending. To control spending Congress needs to have a budget and the budget process needs to be transparent so that routine spending legislation is not disguised as “emergency appropriations” or new spending bills aren’t passed without identifying spending cuts to neutralize Congresswoman Roby’s bill (H.R. 3844) is an attempt to give the budget process some transparency and accountability.
Rep. Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Agriculture Committee, and the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Representative Roby is unopposed in the Republican primary, but faces Democratic Party Challenger Therese Ford in the November 6 General Election.
To read Congresswoman Roby’s press release
To read the CBO report