Welcome to the Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project.
Since 1991, NTUF has computed the legislative spending agendas of Members of Congress by analyzing the costs -- and savings -- of the bills that they sponsor and cosponsor. Our goal is to provide you with objective information about what Congress wants to do with your tax dollars in an open and transparent manner.
Each week, NTUF will bring you updates on the week's most and least expensive bills, the ones with the most cosponsors ("the most friended"), and a few bills we've termed Wildcards -- bills that we think you might find interesting.
For more information on the National Taxpayers Union Foundation or the BillTally Project, check out our website and methodology.
The Latest NTUF Research
Issue Brief #162 House Committee Leadership in the 112th Congress: Back in Black?
"When the Democrats took majority control of the House of Representatives, they promised a bold 'new direction' that would be fiscally responsible. A few years later, the budget mess in Washington is as bad as ever, if not worse. The long-term outlook of the federal government is painted red with deficits as far as the eye can see. After November's historic elections, will the new Republican majority be able to get the budget 'back in black'? A comparison of the spending platforms of the outgoing Chairs and the potential incoming leaders indicates that major changes will be coming to the 'workshops' of the House of Representatives: the Committees responsible for drafting legislation and setting the policy agenda in the 112th Congress."
Issue Brief #161 Incredible Journey: How Barack Obama Became the Most-Traveled President His First Two Years in Office
"There may have been some misinformation regarding the details and costs associated with President Barack Obama's recent trip to Asia, but one thing is certain: upon returning this past weekend from his two-day trip to Lisbon, Portugal for a NATO summit, he has now spent more days abroad during the first two calendar years of his Presidency than any previous Chief Executive."
Most Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 5987, Seniors Protection Act of 2010; H.R. 6294, Social Security Safety Dividend Act
Annualized Cost: $14.5 billion (first-year cost)
Recipients of federal benefit payments, such as Social Security, automatically receive a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) each year to offset increases in inflation. If inflation levels do not increase year-over-year, recipients do not receive a COLA. Next year will be the second year in a row where benefits payments will not be adjusted because inflation did not exceed prior levels.
In response, Congresswoman Laura Richardson (CA-37) and Congressman Earl Pomeroy (ND-At Large) have sponsored separate bills establishing a response mechanism for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities receiving Social Security benefits. Under the bill, if a COLA increase is not made in a calendar year, a $250 payment would be made to each beneficiary of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement Benefits, and Veterans Disability Compensation or pension benefits.
Using data from the Social Security Administration, NTUF calculated a payment to 58 million Americans receiving benefits would total $14.5 billion in FY 2011. NTUF is unable to estimate future spending because COLAs are calculated on a yearly basis.
Least Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 1875/S. 3893, a bill to establish the Emergency Trade Deficit Commission, and for other purposes
Annualized Cost: $2 million (first year cost)
S. 3893 would establish a commission tasked with developing a plan to eliminate the U.S. trade deficit. According to a press release issued by Senator Byron Dorgan's (ND) office, "[f]rom 2002 to 2008, the U.S. trade deficit nearly doubled from $468 billion to $816 billion." Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4) sponsored the bill in the House.
The commission would consist of members from both houses of Congress and experts in the labor, small business, and manufacturing sectors. The 11-member panel would examine the causes, impact, and consequences of the trade deficit and would publish a report of their recommendations within 16 months of enactment. The commission is authorized to spend $2 million in that time period.
The Bill: H.R. 6130 Strengthening Medicare Anti-Fraud Measures Act of 2010
Number of Cosponsors: 21 Congressmen
H.R. 6130 would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) greater authority to exclude certain entities from participating in federal health care programs. According to a press release, "[e]xecutives from companies that are convicted of fraud can be excluded from Medicare under current law. However, if the executive has left the company by the time of conviction, he or she cannot be barred from federal health programs." The legislation would expand the ban to those executives and any shell or parent companies who have committed fraud.
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee member Congressman Pete Stark (CA-13) sponsored H.R. 6130, along with Congressman Wally Herger (CA-2) who said "[w]ith these additional tools OIG will be better able to stop those individuals who commit fraud but who have been able to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, saving taxpayer dollars and protecting seniors. Medicare fraud is a crime that hurts senior citizens, law-abiding health care providers, and every American who pays taxes."
The Strengthening Medicare Anti-Fraud Measures Act would have no significant impact on the budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The measure is expected to exclude few individuals not already prohibited from doing business with Medicare.
Cosponsors include 14 Democrats and seven Republicans.