Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NTU: “Super Committee” Lawmakers Start Far Apart on Spending Reduction Ideas, Study of Panel Members’ Bill-Sponsorship Shows

(Alexandria, VA) – No one said it would be easy for the 12 lawmakers on the latest deficit reduction “Super Committee” to agree with each other, but a new analysis of the bills they’ve sponsored or cosponsored from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) BillTally system shows just how different their views are on spending programs. The 12 panel members have legislative agendas whose individual impact on the budget would vary widely, from an annual cut in federal expenditures of just over $85 billion to a yearly increase of more than $1.15 trillion.

“Based on the legislative turf that each of them has staked out so far, lawmakers on the Supercommittee will not be approaching the task of cutting spending on a vast plot of common ground,” said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and BillTally Project Director Demian Brady. “However, BillTally data also demonstrates that if they are willing to explore ground that has already been plowed by other Members of Congress, it is possible to cultivate a package that would fulfill the ten-year, $1.5 trillion deficit reduction mandate of the Supercommittee without raising taxes."

Graphics: Senate Appointee Spending Agendas; House Appointee Spending Agendas; Consensus Spending Cut Proposals

Since 1991, the BillTally cost accounting system has computed a “net annual agenda” based on each Senator’s or Representative’s individual sponsorship or cosponsorship of legislation. This unique approach provides an in-depth look at the fiscal behavior of lawmakers, free from the influence of committees, party leaders, and rules surrounding floor votes. All cost estimates for bills are obtained from third-party sources, Congress Members’ offices, or are calculated from neutral data.

Key findings of NTUF’s BillTally analysis include:

* In the current Congress, the 12 panel Members have legislative agendas whose net effect ranges from a yearly average reduction in the budget of $85.0 billion (Kyl, R-AZ) to an annual increase in outlays of $1.157 trillion (Becerra, D-CA). The total for Becerra is primarily attributable to his cosponsorship of “single payer” health care reform legislation. Supporters of this bill have identified several tax increases – including surtaxes on the top two income brackets and higher payroll levies – to fund this legislation.
* Each House Republican on the “Supercommittee” has sponsored or cosponsored legislation whose overall effect would reduce federal spending, at amounts between $41.3 billion (Upton, MI) and $43.0 billion (Hensarling, TX). However, these amounts are more moderate (by about one-third) than the net budget cut backed by the typical Member of their party in this Congress.
* So far this year none of the three House Democrats named to the panel have sponsored or cosponsored a single bill whose net effect would shrink federal outlays. This is also true of one Senate Democrat (Max Baucus, MT). These lawmakers’ agendas differ from the trend within their own parties. An average House Democrat has sponsored $10.9 billion in cuts (more than offset by increases), while the average Democratic Senator has backed $12.9 billion in reductions.
* All told, Super Committee appointees sponsored or cosponsored 18 non-overlapping bills whose gross savings (not accounting for any spending-increase bills they supported) added up to $89.6 billion a year. None of these 18 pieces of legislation have bipartisan support among the Super Committee Members, but three of those proposals have been introduced in both chambers and have the backing of GOP Senators and Representatives on the panel. The savings of these three “common bills” are estimated at $41.3 billion total.
* Although Senate and House Republicans on the Super Committee could find agreement on this $41.3 billion spending reduction, its single biggest element involves repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – a move that Super Committee Democrats would oppose.
* Two Senate Democrats (Kerry, MA, and Murray, WA) offered four spending reduction bills amounting to $629 million in cuts. While no GOP lawmakers on the panel cosponsored these pieces of legislation, two of them – a suspension of next year’s Congressional salary increase and cutbacks on Congressional printing, worth $10 million in combined savings – have attracted bipartisan interest in the past.

Even though sponsorship data indicates little accord among Super Committee legislators on expenditure-cuts, Brady noted that the combined legislative “raw material” of the entire membership in the 112th Congress would provide additional opportunities. BillTally’s database has recorded the introduction of non-overlapping spending cuts in the House alone of $357.2 billion per year. This is more than twice the average annualized total deficit reduction ($150 billion per year) the Committee is charged with developing for consideration in the full House and Senate.

“If they are to avoid tax increases that many Americans would find counterproductive, Super Committee Members will need to meet deficit reduction targets through a variety of spending-restraint measures,” Brady concluded. “BillTally’s database from this and previous Congresses shows that there is no shortage of ideas to help achieve this end.”

The NTUF analysis of “Super Committee” Members is available at Updates on BillTally data for the current Congress are provided through a weekly e-newsletter, The Taxpayer’s Tab. Click here to subscribe. NTUF is the research affiliate of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen group founded in 1969. Click here for more information on the BillTally system.