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Press Release

Republican Majority Brings Axe to 112th Congress, But Do They Need a Chainsaw? NTUF Study of Bill-Writing Has Clues
For Immediate Release

June 13, 2011
By Douglas Kellogg
By Pete Sepp

 (Alexandria, VA) – Have hard-charging Members of the new House of Representatives brought a big enough axe to chop the federal deficit and debt down to size? The National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) BillTally report on legislation proposed during the first 100 days of the 112th Congress has some surprising answers.

“BillTally data so far confirms that after being let out of the woodshed by the electorate, the new House majority remembered to bring an axe to the budget debate,” said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and BillTally Project Director Demian Brady. “However, the proportions of the task facing them may in fact warrant a chainsaw.”

Since 1991, the BillTally cost accounting system has computed a “net annual agenda” based on each Senator’s or Representative’s individual sponsorship or co-sponsorship 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.

According to Brady, NTUF’s special 100-Day BillTally report shows that indeed the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has proposed even more spending reductions (in total dollars adjusted for inflation) than the “revolutionary” 104th Congress led by Newt Gingrich. Yet, these cuts would only erase less than one-fifth of this year’s budget shortfall, compared to roughly three-fourths of the 1995 deficit that legislation introduced in the 104th Congress would have slashed.

Other key findings include:

  • Over the first 100 session days of the 112th Congress, the net result should all non-overlapping proposed legislation pass would be $153 billion in spending cuts.
  • House bill-writing activity also shows a tilt away from spending hikes. In the first 100 days, House Members drafted roughly five bills to boost expenditures for every bill that would shrink them. This is a drastically smaller margin than the 27 spending bills per cut bill proposed in the 111th Congress. Yet, it still does not equal the 2 to 1 increase-to-decrease ratio reached in the 104th.
  • Republicans have led a surge in the amount of budget reductions proposed. The average Republican sought $63 billion in net savings, a turnaround from an agenda of $1.6 billion in net increases in early 2009.
  • Democrats have only slowed, not reversed, support for spending increases. The average Democrat sought $6.3 billion in net expenditure hikes, much less than the $44.7 billion proposed during the same period in the 111th.
  • No difference between new and veteran Republicans? Both returning and freshman GOP Members matched almost exactly the House Republican average of $63 billion in budget reductions.
  • Tea Party throws more spending overboard than any other caucus. The $99.1 billion in average spending reductions proposed by the Tea Party Caucus was enough to best even the Republican Study Committee, which came in at $74.5 billion.
  • Individually, most Members show surprisingly little initiative. Even though GOP Leaders claim all their Members are aggressively seeking spending restraint, a typical House Republican still supported just five of the 58 savings bills introduced.
  • Would-be cutters took aim at health care and defense spending. Republicans in particular focused on health-expenditure reductions ($44.4 billion), like repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Democrats led the charge for Defense Department savings ($37 billion).
  • Blue Dog Democrats proposed $3.3 billion in spending increases despite taking major casualties in 2010.

“Americans who hoped to see Congress address budget shortfalls through spending reductions rather than tax increases can take some encouragement in the BillTally findings, yet they are left to wonder if lawmakers have brought sufficient tools for the job,” Brady concluded. “In a fiscal landscape crowded with towering deficits as far as the eye can see, neither scalpels nor even axes seem adequate.”

NTUF Policy Paper 169, Out of the Woodshed – But Did They Bring Their Axe? The House of Representatives Under the Republican Majority Through the First 100 Days 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 non-profit taxpayer advocacy group founded in 1969. Click here for more information on the BillTally system.