Study: Less Active 113th Congress' Agenda Would Still Cost $1.1 Trillion

(Alexandria, VA) – Today, National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) released a new study, from the organization’s BillTally project, finding that all the legislation proposed during the 113th Congress’ First Session would have added a net $1.09 trillion to the federal budget if enacted.

BillTally is NTUF’s unique cost-accounting program that provides a comprehensive overview of the net cost of all the spending and savings bills introduced in the House and Senate (not just legislation that makes it to the floor for a vote). The latest analysis identified 680 non-overlapping spending proposals between the two chambers adding up to $1.84 trillion, as well as 119 unique savings proposals that would have cut $750 billion – for a $1.09 trillion total cost (increases minus cuts) for Congress’ budgetary agenda.

For the full BillTally report click HERE.

Search individual members of Congress HERE.

BillTally reveals a Congress that has departed from the fiscal paths of both its predecessors – the Pelosi-Reid 111th Congress and the Tea Party-influenced 112th Congress. The partisan budget clashes that marked the past four years and led to historic spending increase and cut activity at the same time certainly didn’t disappear in 2013, but they are somewhat less prevalent.  

The 113th Congress saw a narrowing of the gap between the parties’ spending agendas, with the average House Republican supporting one-third fewer budgetary savings, and the average House Democrat seeking $100 billion less in spending.

In the upper chamber, Senate Democrats on average proposed less spending than they had since the 104th Congress, and Senate Republicans sought an average of nearly $100 billion less in budget cuts.

“The budgetary battles may have cooled within the halls of Congress,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “The Tea Party still makes headlines, and many Democrats still seek single payer healthcare, but this Congress has shown less enthusiasm for either dramatic spending hikes or budget cuts.”

The highlights from NTUF’s BillTally report for the first session of the 113th Congress:

  • During the First Session of the 113th Congress, Representatives authored 496 spending bills and 112 savings bills. Senators drafted 332 increase bills and 56 savings bills. While the number of increases was the lowest seen since the 105th Congress, this is also the first time in several years that there were fewer cut bills introduced compared to the previous Congress.
  • The ratio of increase bills per cut bill introduced in the House shrunk from over 21:1 in the 110th Congress to 3.8:1 in the 112th Congress. This year saw the ratio climb slightly to 4.4:1.
  • In the Senate, the ratio of increases to cuts reached a high of 32:1 in the 108th Congress. That ratio steadily declined over each successive Congress, falling to 4.4:1 in the 112th Congress. During the current Congress, there were nearly 6 bills to raise spending for each bill that would reduce spending.
  • The House’s net legislative agenda would add a net of $1.17 trillion to the budget, or $9,571 per household - the net cost of the Senate’s legislation would add $620 billion ($5,059 per household).
  • The “Tea” may be cooling, but the average Tea Party Caucus member agenda, at $127 billion, still cut spending by a wider margin than members of other caucuses. The typical member of the Progressive Caucus would increase spending by $857 billion annually.
  • In the House, the average Democrat called for net spending hikes of $396.5 billion – the lowest such figure since the 107th Congress. This spending agenda would have boosted FY 2013’s total outlays by 11 percent.
  • The typical House Republican proposed, on net, $82.6 billion in cuts – down from a record $130.2 billion last Congress. The current total would have reduced spending by just over 2 percent.
  • The average Senate Democrat’s net agenda amounted to $18.3 billion in new spending, which would grow the budget by one half of a percentage point. This marks the Senate Democrats’ lowest recorded net spending agenda since the 104th Congress.
  • The average Senate Republican was a “net cutter,” with an agenda that would slash $159.1 billion from the budget. That amount would have shaved FY 2013 total outlays by 4.6 percent.
  • The number of would-be budget cutters fell to 249, from a high of 297 in the 112th Congress, reversing a multi-year trend.

Demian Brady concluded, “Congress’ agenda still exceeds $1 trillion, as it did during 2011-2012. For concerned taxpayers and fiscal hawks that bottom line may stand out as a sign that legislators are still offering major government–expanding agendas even with a noted cooling of activity … and despite the grim long-term forecast for the federal budget.”

BillTally is the most methodical and comprehensive study of Congressional spending legislation available. 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.