Stunning Discovery: Senate Majority Fixed Discretionary Outlays For FY13 At Obama Budget Level, $14 Billion Above Debt-Deal Agreement
“The outlay levels for the appropriations bills have been inflated by $14 billion to meet the levels in the President’s budget… It is unthinkable that we would not only spend more than Congress agreed to, but would institute instead the numbers derived from President Obama’s budget which this chamber unanimously rejected…
I’m afraid that this is another example of the sleight-of-hand tactics that have been used in Congress for too long. We have Members of Congress that take it as a personal challenge to see how they can defeat, get around, and spend more money than they’re allocated. The American people are being misled in this attempt.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered remarks on the floor today about a new discovery by the Budget Committee that the discretionary outlay levels filed by Chairman Kent Conrad pursuant to the Budget Control Act exceed—by nearly $14 billion—the levels permitted by law.
Sessions’ prepared remarks follow, and additional background information may be found below:
“I am here on the floor today to address a stunning discovery.
As many people know, Congress and the President struck a deal last summer to raise the debt ceiling.
That deal set in place modest discretionary spending caps—not nearly enough to balance our budget, but a step in the right direction. That legislation also required the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, by April 15 of this year, to file aggregate spending levels based on the Congressional Budget Office’s March 2012 baseline, and to allocate available funds to each of the Senate committees. In other words, these submitted levels tell the appropriators how much they can spend. These are real dollars that each appropriating committee will be allowed to spend.
Yet we have learned something disappointing and astounding. The numbers filed by Chairman Conrad are not, in fact, the spending levels from the CBO baseline as the statute sets forth. Instead, the discretionary outlay total submitted by the Chairman for fiscal year 2013 is derived from the President’s budget—not from the CBO baseline.
The discretionary spending allocation for the Senate is therefore inflated by almost $14 billion. Let me repeat that: the outlay levels for the appropriations bills have been inflated by $14 billion to meet the levels in the President’s budget. It raises outlay levels over that August agreement—a solemn agreement between Members of Congress, the American people, and the President who signed it.
I have sent a letter to Chairman Conrad today urging him to correct and re-file the proper numbers.
It is unthinkable that we would not only spend more than Congress agreed to, but would institute instead the numbers derived from President Obama’s budget which this chamber unanimously rejected.
I’m afraid that this is another example of the sleight-of-hand tactics that have been used in Congress for too long. We have Members of Congress that take it as a personal challenge to see how they can defeat, get around, and spend more money than they’re allocated. The American people are being misled in this attempt. We’re not following the Budget Control Act. This is not a partisan matter: it is about honest accounting; it is about safeguarding the American treasury; it is about restoring faith in the Senate chamber.
The American people are right not to trust Washington, because we haven’t honored their trust. Political elites remain totally disconnected from the financial reality our country faces. Game the system, spend more. The alarming discovery that the discretionary allocations filed for the Senate are $14 billion higher than we agreed to is the latest in a long list of episodes that underscores the financial chaos that is the American government.
Those episodes include the GSA scandal, Solyndra, and IRS checks to illegal aliens who claim dependents living abroad.
It also includes the revelation that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will spend a million or more taxpayer dollars for a decadent getaway to beachfront resort and spa in the Hawaiian tropics.
And it includes, of course, the three-year refusal of the Senate majority to produce a budget plan.
We are badly in need of strong executive leadership to put our finances in order. This chaos cannot continue. Accountability and discipline must be achieved.
And the first step to right the ship ought to be the Senate majority immediately correcting these inflated allocations.
We need an honest accounting. We need to spend what we agreed to. These dollars do not belong to us—they belong to the American people and they must be protected. Each one was extracted from some hardworking taxpayer and sent to Washington on the hope and prayer that it would be wisely spent. To stealthily increase discretionary outlays by $14 billion in one fell swoop is unacceptable. It must be corrected at once.”
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