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

 (Alexandria,VA) – Have hard-charging Members of the new House of Representativesbrought a big enough axe to chop the federal deficit and debt down to size? TheNational Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) BillTally report on legislationproposed during the first 100 days of the 112th Congress has somesurprising answers.

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

Since 1991, the BillTally cost accounting systemhas computed a “net annual agenda” based on each Senator’s or Representative’sindividual sponsorship or co-sponsorship of legislation. This unique approachprovides an in-depth look at the fiscal behavior of lawmakers, free from theinfluence of committees, party leaders, and rules surrounding floor votes. Allcost estimates for bills are obtained from third-party sources, CongressMembers’ offices, or are calculated from neutral data.

According to Brady, NTUF’s special 100-DayBillTally report shows that indeed the GOP-controlled House of Representativeshas proposed even more spending reductions (in total dollars adjusted forinflation) than the “revolutionary” 104th Congress led by NewtGingrich. Yet, these cuts would onlyerase less than one-fifth of this year’s budget shortfall, compared to roughlythree-fourths of the 1995 deficit that legislation introduced in the 104thCongress 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 addressbudget shortfalls through spending reductions rather than tax increases cantake some encouragement in the BillTally findings, yet they are left to wonderif lawmakers have brought sufficient tools for the job,” Brady concluded. “In afiscal 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 – ButDid They Bring Their Axe? The House of Representatives Under the RepublicanMajority Through the First 100 Days is available at Updates onBillTally data for the current Congress are provided through a weeklye-newsletter, The Taxpayer’s Tab. Click here tosubscribe. NTUF is the research affiliate of the 362,000-memberNational Taxpayers Union, a non-profit taxpayer advocacy group founded in1969. Clickhere for more informationon the BillTally system.