Spending on Expired Govt. Programs Exposes Broken Budget Process

WASHINGTON D.C. – During a hearing today focused on spending on unauthorized programs, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said that the issue exposes a fundamental breakdown in America’s budget process that could have significant consequences for not only government, but also the nation.

“An essential premise of good government is that Congress should authorize programs and activities before it funds them,” said Chairman Enzi.  “If we relinquish our responsibility to regularly review and reform these programs, all of our government funding will essentially operate on ‘auto-pay.’ This will prevent us from having the flexibility to support important priorities, or improve and eliminate government programs not delivering results.”

Chairman Enzi noted that, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), most of the current $310 billion in unauthorized appropriations is funding programs whose authorization has been expired for a decade or more, with some programs whose authorization expired more than thirty years ago. He said that Congressional appropriations have become increasingly divorced from authorizations despite the presence of rules in place in both chambers of Congress to prevent unauthorized appropriations. Enzi said unfortunately these rules are not comprehensive, they are not self-enforcing, and they are rarely used in actual practice. 

“When Congress authorizes a program, it is creating a federal solution to a perceived need.  But over time, needs change and technology evolves. Careful examinations of these programs can help avoid creating new ones that duplicate those already being funded,” Chairman Enzi said.  “Ultimately, if we are going to cure our chronic overspending habit, we must fix America’s broken budget process, starting with the Congressional authorization and appropriations process.”


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