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“Super Committee”Lawmakers Start Far Apart on Spending Reduction Ideas, Study of Panel Members‘ Bill-Sponsorship Shows

by Pete Sepp / /

(Alexandria,VA) – No one said it would be easy for the 12 lawmakers on the latestdeficit reduction “Super Committee” to agree with each other, but a new analysisof the bills they’ve sponsored or cosponsored from the National Taxpayers UnionFoundation’s (NTUF’s) BillTally system shows just how different their views areon spending programs. The 12 panel members have legislative agendas whoseindividual impact on the budget would vary widely, from an annual cut infederal expenditures of just over $85 billion to a yearly increase of more than$1.15 trillion.

“Based on the legislative turf thateach of them has staked out so far, lawmakers on the Supercommittee will not beapproaching the task of cutting spending on a vast plot of common ground,” saidNTUF Senior Policy Analyst and BillTally Project Director Demian Brady.“However, BillTally data also demonstrates that if they are willing to exploreground that has already been plowed by other Members of Congress, it ispossible to cultivate a package that would fulfill the ten-year, $1.5 trilliondeficit reduction mandate of the Supercommittee without raising taxes.”

Since 1991, the BillTally costaccounting system has computed a “net annual agenda” based on each Senator’s orRepresentative’s individual sponsorship or cosponsorship of legislation. Thisunique approach provides an in-depth look at the fiscal behavior of lawmakers,free from the influence of committees, party leaders, and rules surroundingfloor votes. All cost estimates for bills are obtained from third-party sources,Congress Members’ offices, or are calculated from neutral data.

Key findings of NTUF’s BillTallyanalysis include:

  • In the current Congress, the 12 panel Membershave legislative agendas whose net effect ranges from a yearly average reductionin the budget of $85.0 billion (Kyl, R-AZ) to an annual increase in outlays of$1.157 trillion (Becerra, D-CA). The total for Becerra is primarilyattributable to his cosponsorship of “single payer” health care reformlegislation. Supporters of this bill have identified several tax increases –including surtaxes on the top two income brackets and higher payroll levies –to fund this legislation.
  • Each House Republican on the “Supercommittee”has sponsored or cosponsored legislation whose overall effect would reducefederal spending, at amounts between $41.3 billion (Upton, MI) and $43.0billion (Hensarling, TX). However, these amounts are more moderate (by aboutone-third) than the net budget cut backed by the typical Member of their partyin this Congress.
  • So far this year none of the three HouseDemocrats named to the panel have sponsored or cosponsored a single bill whosenet effect would shrink federal outlays. This is also true of one SenateDemocrat (Max Baucus, MT). These lawmakers’ agendas differ from the trendwithin their own parties. An average House Democrat has sponsored $10.9 billionin cuts (more than offset by increases), while the average Democratic Senatorhas backed $12.9 billion in reductions.
  • All told, Super Committee appointees sponsoredor cosponsored 18 non-overlapping bills whose gross savings (not accounting for any spending-increasebills they supported) added up to $89.6 billion a year. None of these 18 piecesof legislation have bipartisan support among the Super Committee Members, butthree of those proposals have been introduced in both chambers and have thebacking of GOP Senators and Representatives on the panel. The savings of thesethree “common bills” are estimated at $41.3 billion total.
  • Although Senate and House Republicans on theSuper Committee could find agreement on this $41.3 billion spending reduction,its single biggest element involves repealing the Patient Protection andAffordable Care Act – a move that Super Committee Democrats would oppose.
  • Two Senate Democrats (Kerry, MA, and Murray, WA)offered four spending reduction bills amounting to $629 million in cuts. Whileno GOP lawmakers on the panel cosponsored these pieces of legislation, two ofthem – a suspension of next year’s Congressional salary increase and cutbackson Congressional printing, worth $10 million in combined savings – haveattracted bipartisan interest in the past.

Even though sponsorship dataindicates little accord among Super Committee legislators on expenditure-cuts,Brady noted that the combined legislative “raw material” of the entiremembership in the 112th Congress would provide additionalopportunities. BillTally’s database has recorded the introduction ofnon-overlapping spending cuts in the House alone of $357.2 billion per year.This is more than twice the average annualized total deficit reduction ($150billion per year) the Committee is charged with developing for consideration inthe full House and Senate.

“If they are to avoid tax increasesthat many Americans would find counterproductive, Super Committee Members willneed to meet deficit reduction targets through a variety of spending-restraintmeasures,” Brady concluded. “BillTally’s database from this and previousCongresses shows that there is no shortage of ideas to help achieve this end.”

The NTUF analysis of “Super Committee” Membersis available at www.ntu.org. Updates on BillTally data for the current Congressare provided through a weekly e-newsletter, The Taxpayer’s Tab. Click here tosubscribe. NTUF is the research affiliate of the 362,000-memberNational Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen group founded in1969. Click here formore information on the BillTally system.

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