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Do Spending Cuts Lose Favor Over Time?

Michael Tasselmyer
November 1, 2013

Yesterday, NTUF released a special BillTally report examining the first six months of the first session in the 113th Congress. The report comes as lawmakers begin to debate several long-term budget issues, not the least of which is the fact that under the terms of the compromise that ended the recent government shutdown, federal funding will again run dry by early February unless Congress takes further action.

The 113th Congress has, at least to this point, shown a reluctance to address U.S. budgetary dilemmas by cutting spending. Through the first six months of 2013, Congress has introduced 554 bills to increase spending, as opposed to just 114 that would reduce outlays –- a nearly five to one ratio. For context, that ratio in the previous Congress was 3.9 and 4.6 to one in the House and Senate, respectively. Across both Chambers, the 113th Congress has introduced a net spending agenda of $1.28 trillion: about $1.74 trillion in increases and $453 billion in savings.

Perhaps more concerning for taxpayers who are wary of mounting debt and deficits is that if previous legislative trends are any indication, it's unlikely that Congress will introduce savings proposals any more quickly over the rest of the session.

In the 112th Congress, NTUF identified 221 House savings proposals over the course of the two year term. 52 percent of that total had been introduced by the end of the first 6 months, and over 74 percent were considered by the end of the first year. In other words, only about a quarter of any major savings proposals were introduced over the entire final year of that Congressional session.

The 112th Senate followed a similar trend: by the end of the first six months of the two year term, about 56 percent of all savings bills had been introduced. Just over 81 percent of the Senate’s savings legislation had been submitted by the end of the first year.

Through July of this year, the current Congress introduced 81 savings bills in the House and 33 in the Senate. The House had already submitted 72 percent of its savings bills by the end of March, and the Senate had reached 70 percent of its total in that same time.

Although it's impossible to predict how the current Congress might act going forward, history shows that legislative proposals to cut spending tend to be considered earlier rather than later. If that holds true for the 113th Congress, the window for significant savings legislation to be considered may be closing as the year comes to an end.


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