Budget chairmen, Portman, call for accounting of spending changes made each Congress

Every year, Congress and the president enact dozens of laws increasing or decreasing spending on various entitlement spending programs. However, there has never been a single document listing the final cost of each new law. To get an honest accounting of these costs, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, GA-06, and Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called on the Congressional Budget Office to begin publishing a scorecard at the beginning of every Congress that details the budgetary impacts of all entitlement legislation enacted in the previous Congress. This will be similar to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s longstanding practice of publishing the final scores of each new tax law at the end of each Congress.

According to Enzi, Price and Portman, stakeholders in our fiscal future need to know the taxpayer costs of changes made during each Congress to entitlement spending programs. The lawmakers said the policymaking process will improve and the general public will be better served by the publication of this information by knowing how much Congress has increased spending.

The full text of the letter is included below.

January 30, 2015

Dr. Douglas Elmendorf


Congressional Budget Office

FHOB Fourth Floor

Second and D Streets, SW

Washington, DC 20515-6925

Dear Dr. Elmendorf:

In an effort to promote transparency in government spending, we write to direct the Congressional Budget Office to begin publishing a document at the beginning of each new Congress listing the line-item scores of all enacted mandatory spending legislation from the previous Congress. This publication shall be titled “Accounting of Mandatory Legislation Enacted in the [114th] Congress” (with correct Congress listed).

The format shall be a table providing a minimum of the following information for each included bill:

  • Underlying bill number;
  • Public law number;
  • Bill title (along with any necessary description);
  • Date of final enactment;
  • The full score for each fiscal year scored (in whatever level of line-item detail that had appeared in the bill’s earlier cost estimates, when feasible), and
  • The score of the sum of those years.

To the extent practicable, this document should include all enacted mandatory legislation with a total budget impact of at least $1 billion over the period measured. It should also reflect the budget impact of the final, enacted version of legislation rather than any preliminary or outdated version.

This publication shall also include the sum of each year’s line-items to provide a total yearly budget impact of all enacted mandatory provisions during the previous Congress. These annual sums should approximate the sum of enacted mandatory legislative provisions that were released as part of the budget and economic baseline updates of the previous Congress. Any significant divergence should be explained in the accompanying text.

CBO has the option of producing an introductory section that would identify and explain major legislation, as well as compare the legislative output across Congresses.

Any retroactive estimates from the 113th Congress may be performed using only the total mandatory costs of each enacted bill, rather than each bill’s line-item details.

In addition to publishing a report, CBO shall also make the tables available in Microsoft excel on the CBO website. This electronic format should also hyperlink to each original cost estimate publication whenever possible.

Thank you for your action on this request. The policymaking process will be benefited significantly and the general public better served by the publication of this report. Stakeholders in our fiscal future need to know the taxpayer costs of changes made each Congress to mandatory spending programs.

Yours Truly,

Senator Michael Enzi                                 Congressman Tom Price

Chairman                                                     Chairman

Committee on the Budget, Senate           Committee on the Budget, House

Senator Rob Portman

Member, Committee on the Budget, Senate