Letter: USA Act empowers Congress to better exercise power of the purse

Dear Chair McMorris Rodgers:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of our organizations, we write in support of the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act.

Your legislation would help empower Congress to better exercise its power of the purse by requiring the periodic authorization of federal programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in fiscal year (FY) 2016, Congress appropriated $310.4 billion to 256 programs and activities that are no longer authorized. That equates to roughly one-quarter of the discretionary budget, and more than half of the non-defense discretionary budget.

Regardless of the merits of these programs, it is undeniable that they are being funded without sufficient oversight and accountability. The USA Act would create a mechanism that forces congressional committees to take charge of the expenditures within their jurisdiction. After the enactment of this bill, unauthorized programs would see their budgets reduced by 10 percent in the first year, and 15 percent in each of the following two years, after which they would be completely sunset. These spending reductions would be applied to the overall federal discretionary budget.

Congress is already required by rule to authorize programs before appropriating funds. However, due to widespread and longstanding waivers of this rule, the two oldest unauthorized programs date back to the 95th and 96th Congress, and they received a total of $461 million in FY 2016. The USA Act would help end the longstanding neglect of the authorization process.

Your legislation also includes important accountability measures that pertain to mandatory spending, which comprises nearly two-thirds of the federal budget. It would create a Spending Accountability Commission tasked with conducting comprehensive reviews of federal programs funded by mandatory spending. In the event Congress cannot agree on whether an unauthorized program should continue, the commission could propose reductions in mandatory spending to offset any unauthorized programs remaining on the books. This mechanism would provide Congress with additional flexibility as it seeks to improve the effectiveness of government spending.

Again, we commend you on your thoughtful approach to increasing accountability, which will result in reducing unnecessary federal spending. Our organizations are pleased to endorse the USA Act, and we hope all Members of Congress will join you in working toward its swift passage.

Sincerely,

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Phil Kerpen, President
American Commitment

Dee Stewart, President
Americans for a Balanced Budget

Rick Manning, President
Americans for Limited Government

Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Grover Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform

Norm Singleton, President
Campaign for Liberty

Jonathan Bydlak, President
Coalition to Reduce Spending

Kent Lassman, President
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Tom Schatz, President
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Jason Pye, Director of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs
FreedomWorks

Andrew Clark, Executive Director
Generation Opportunity

Mario H. Lopez, President
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Heather R. Higgins, President and CEO
Independent Women’s Voice

Lisa B. Nelson, CEO
Jeffersonian Project

Allen B. West, Executive Director
National Center for Policy Analysis

Kevin Kosar, Governance Project Director and Senior Fellow
R Street Institute

Steve Ellis, Vice President
Taxpayers for Common Sense

David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Judson Phillips, Founder
Tea Party Nation

Mike Stenhouse, CEO
Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity

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