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NTUF Issue Brief: The New Senate: Where Will the Federal Budget Go in 2013?

by Dan Barrett / /

Yesterday, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation released our 165th Issue Brief detailing how the results of the Senatorial elections might affect federal spending. By using existing BillTally data of reelected Senators and Members of the House who were elected to the Senate, NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady and I were able to give taxpayers a fiscal picture of the 113th Congress, based on past proposals and cosponsorships. We also used net agenda totals from three of the Senate campaign studies that NTUF conducted leading up to the November 6th elections.

In the Brief, all 33 Senators-Elect proposed spending agendas are highlighted. Of the 21 reelected Senators, seven sponsored net cuts, according to NTUF’s First Session Report. Two of the net cutters are members of the Democratic Party whereas five are Republicans. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) sponsored more annual net cuts ($7.8 billion) than her colleague Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who supports $1.3 billion in reductions. The sitting Senator-Elect with the largest proposed spending cut agenda is Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) with $327.4 billion in cuts. On the spending side, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (an Independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party) sponsored the largest increase agenda at $1.068 trillion. A large portion of his agenda is a bill to remake the health care sector into a single-payer system.

For newly-elected Senators, the fiscal picture is less clear. Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) supports the largest net spending reduction agenda ($367.4 billion each year) and Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who also supports a simple-payer health care measure, would increase spending by $1.24 trillion, which is more than the rest of the other 2013 freshmen. A finding I was not expecting was the difference in freshmen agendas. Congressman Flake was the only new Senator with a past spending cut agenda. Though NTUF was not able to score the agendas of three Senators-Elect, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Angus King (I-ME), the Brief details some of their proposals they will seek in the new Congress. Angus King recently announced that he would caucus with the Democratic Party but has not released a legislative agenda.

What does this all mean for taxpayers? Of course, agendas can change in either direction, especially when considering what is at stake. The “fiscal cliff”, the $16 trillion debt, trillions more in unfunded entitlement liabilities, an increasingly complex tax system, and a limping housing sector are just some of the big issues the 113th Congress will have to address. If you are worried about government spending, the agendas outlined seem to indicate we will see similar outlays in the next two years. However, legislators and entire Congresses have changed in the past and it is possible that 12 new Senators could break the deadlock we have seen in the upper chamber. To see what your Representative and Senators are currently supporting, you can search NTUF’s BillTally database for line-by-line agenda reports.