Congress Won’t Cut a Penny: Refuses to Cut Even 0.08 Percent of Federal Budget

There was a recent move to cut a pittance out of the federal budget and the Republicans in Congress couldn’t even get that done. 

The GOP talks a good game when it’s not in power. For eight years, Republicans promised they were going to repeal Obamacare. After controlling both houses of Congress and the White House for more than 500 days, the Affordable Care Act remains in place. Republicans also harped continuously about fiscal responsibility during the Obama years, but so far they’ve increased spending by some $300 billion and run up annual deficits that will approach $1 trillion in the next three years.

Well, the GOP-controlled Congress recently had an opportunity to put its money where its mouth is and slash a modest $15 billion in federal spending authority.

It didn’t.

To put that in perspective, that’s just 0.08 percent of the federal budget.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Democrats in voting down a bill to “to rescind certain budget authority proposed to be rescinded in special messages transmitted to the Congress by the President on May 8, 2018, in accordance with title X of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act 1974.”

Collins told The Hill she thinks Congress should “comb through” the spending cuts in the appropriations process. Burr refused to vote for the bill because Republican leadership wouldn’t commit to letting him amend cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

As Eric Boehm explained in an article published at, the “rescission” package would have only cut just $1.1 billion in actual federal spending over 10 years. The rest of the “cuts” came through sweeping up unused budgetary authority from various departments and agencies in the current budget.

“The $1.1 billion in spending cuts would have amounted to about 0.08 percent of the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March. The federal government spends 40 times as much every year fighting a pointless war in Afghanistan. It spends 100 times as much every year on fraudulent Medicaid claims. In the context of the federal budget, $1.1 billion isn’t just a drop in the bucket; it’s a bucket in an ocean.”

GOP defenders will argue that Collins and Burr are “RINOs” and if we could just elect a few more “real” Republicans, they would get something done. But I would argue that the so-called RINOs represent the “real” GOP. They seem to dominate the party, after all.

The real lesson here is that Congress won’t cut anything – ever. We’re constantly promised if so-and-so happens, we’ll see real change in D.C. After so-and-so happens, nothing changes.

To be fair, it’s not just the Republicans. It’s the entire Washington culture. Candidates from both parties promise to go to D.C. and change things. But years pass and nothing changes. The federal government continues to expand, spend more money and become more intrusive — no matter who is in power.

Boehm said the failure to even move a modest proposal through the Senate illustrates why cutting spending in Washington is all but impossible.

“The rescission bill was little more than ‘a modest show of good faith to taxpayers,’ as Bill Riggs, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, called it. Given the chance to demonstrate a willingness to cut just a modicum of the federal government’s runaway spending, Burr and Collins found reasons to vote against the bill. There are always reasons to oppose cuts, but how can Congress make the tough decisions required to control a $21 trillion (and growing) national debt when it can’t make easy decisions like this?”

If you believe real change is just on election away, you need to stop kidding yourself. It’s been one election away my entire life – and I’ve been around a while. Washington D.C. will never fix itself.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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