House Shift Could Mean Billions in Budget Boosts, Study Finds

(Alexandria, VA) -- If pundits are proven correct and Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, some of the biggest budget impacts will come from those leading committees, not from floor votes. A study of legislative sponsorship habits by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) shows that would-be House Democratic Committee Chairmen support an average annual federal spending hike 90 times higher than the already significant level backed by GOP Chairmen.

"The small hopes taxpayers had for spending restraint from Congress could fade if a new majority party wishes to expand the role of government spending and regulation even further," observed NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and study author Demian Brady.

Brady's analysis used NTUF's BillTally system, which assigns a yearly taxpayer cost to virtually every spending bill in the House or Senate (1,485 bills in the most recent session), and provides the impact on annual federal spending if all the proposals a given lawmaker sponsored or cosponsored became law. Among the findings of the study, based on the first year of the current Congress:

  • Potential Democratic Chairmen in the House of Representatives propose to spend over 90 times what their Republican counterparts propose. The average Democratic Chairman has a net annual agenda that would increase spending by $931 billion, compared to an average net agenda for a Republican Chairman of only $10 billion (even if the GOP retains control, new Chairs would be named due to retirements and term limits).
  • In the Senate, the numbers are far lower, yet potential Democratic Chairmen still have endorsed over $40 billion in new outlays, in contrast with $12 billion for potential Republican Chairmen.
  • Among the highs and lows for both parties: John Conyers (D-MI), who could take the reins of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed over $1.7 trillion in new outlays; Ike Skelton (D- MO), who would likely lead the Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, proposed a modest $1.9 billion in additional expenditures; Senator John Warner (R-VA), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, proposed $99.5 billion in new spending, and Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of Veterans Affairs, actually proposed to reduce federal outlays by $46.0 billion.

With individual -- as opposed to average -- net spending agendas ranging from modest gains for taxpayers to 355 times more expensive than the amounts of their predecessors, Brady concluded that "the possible Chairs could precipitate a massive expansion of our $8.5 trillion national debt. In the aftermath of this electoral version of musical chairs, there is no doubt that the taxpayers will be stuck paying the piper, but the new potential Committee Chairs could influence the size of the bill."

NTUF is the research and educational affiliate of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union. Copies of NTUF Issue Brief 156, Committee Control in the 110th Congress: Who Will be Left Sitting? are available online at The study contains a detailed committee-by-committee comparison of changes in proposed spending for incoming and outgoing Chairs.