112th Congress Muffled Washington's Spending Boom, New Study of Fiscal Legislation Reveals

(Alexandria, VA) Today, National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) released its complete BillTally report for the 112th Congress. Among a host of key findings from this unique, exclusive project, BillTally discovered that across both parties and both chambers of Congress, the legislative agenda of the 112th took a turn away from big spending, despite significant disagreement.

From trillion-dollar proposals to expand government’s role in health care  to plans for a second “stimulus” package, the 112th Congress proposed more than $2.5 trillion worth of budget increases and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. NTUF’s BillTally report covers all the fiscal facts and figures from lawmakers’ basic bill-writing behavior that shed light on the most important policy challenges of our time.

Click to read the full BillTally report.

“Our new BillTally analysis shows the electoral response to Washington’s record spending trends did stem the flow of budget increases over the past two years,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “Even though BillTally data can say as much about past Congresses as the most recent one, there’s no denying lawmakers' agendas have shifted toward cuts and more moderate spending agendas.”

BillTally is the most methodical and comprehensive study of Congressional spending legislation. Since 1991, the NTUF project 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.

Highlights from NTUF’s report on the 112th Congress include:

  • For the first time in 12 years there were more in Congress who wanted to cut spending overall than those who sought to drastically increase spending (by over $100 billion).
  • For the first time NTUF calculated the net cost of the House’s and Senate’s combined legislative agenda (excluding duplicates and overlaps), determining that if all fiscal legislation (cuts & increases with at least a $1 million impact) were passed, the federal budget would rise $1.3 trillion.
  • If Members of Congress passed all the spending cuts they drafted, the bulk of which were left on the table in the 112th, they could have saved $1.2 trillion (provided they also abstained from enacting any spending increases).
  • The Senate saw the biggest turnaround in agendas between the 111th and 112th Congresses: the average Democrat proposed a net agenda of $39 billion – down by $157 billion from the previous Congress. Senate Republicans shifted all the way to a $273 billion average savings agenda from a $25 billion spending agenda during the previous Congressabout 12 times less spending!
  • In the House, Democrats bucked the overall trend by totaling around $20 billion more in spending proposals than they did during the prior Congress, for a $556 billion average. House GOP Members more than doubled the savings of their colleagues in the prior Congress, with $169 billion in budget reductions.
  • For all the talk about the GOP’s increased focus on reducing spending, the party’s net Congressional agenda would still only slash the federal budget by 5 percent.
  • Republican freshmen, on average, called for more net budget savings than returning Republicans. First-time Senate Democrats proposed more spending than their veteran colleagues, though in the House freshmen had somewhat smaller agendas than senior Democrats.
  • Proposals related to health care had the highest average annual cost at $18.2 billion. The biggest contributors were single-payer health care via the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act ($1.16 trillion), and the American Health Security Act of 2011 ($796.7 billion). Both were largely supported by Democrats.
  • While the Tea Party was being interrogated by the IRS, their namesake caucus in the House was leading the way on spending cuts. Their Members’ average net agenda would save $234 billion.
    • The Republican Study Committee followed with a $209 billion average savings agenda. While the Progressive caucus supported the most spending increases for an average agenda of more than $1 trillion.
    • Additionally, the Blue Dog caucus is nearly an extinct breed, with only 24 members accounted for in BillTally, but they proposed the most moderate Democratic spending agenda at $86 billion.

“We are seeing that most Members of Congress have scaled back the cost of their legislative agendas. However, there is a growing polarity between those calling for more spending and those who are ‘net cutters’. Because of this, a lot of budget cuts were left on the table at the conclusion of the 112th Congress. Without bipartisan agreement to enact some real spending restraint, deficits will flourish and higher tax burdens will likely follow.” Brady concluded.

NTUF is the research affiliate of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit taxpayer advocacy group founded in 1969. Note: For additional analyses of past Presidential budget proposals and State of the Union speeches, visit www.ntu.org.