A Proposal to Reform Unauthorized Appropriations
Memo to Speaker’s Organizational Task Force
May 18, 2016
I propose to restore the House ban on unauthorized spending through a conference rule that includes the following provisions:
FIRST: To direct all authorizing committees to identify any expired or soon to expire programs within their jurisdictions and to adopt a timetable for adopting legislation reauthorizing them.
SECOND: To direct the authorizing committees in this process:
1. Except for trust fund programs, to remove all possible mandatory spending provisions, and to require all revenues derived from these programs to be deposited in the Treasury and subject to annual congressional appropriation.
2. To remove all legislative and judicial authority ceded to the executive agencies in the program authorizations. NO agency rule should have force of law without being enacted by Congress, and ALL legal disputes arising from these laws should be adjudicated by the federal courts and not by administrative agencies.
THIRD: To direct the Rules Committee members not to report any rule to the floor that waives a point of order on Rule XXI (2)(a) on any appropriations bill for a program that has not been reauthorized after the deadline set by the authorizing committee timetables, unless otherwise requested in writing by the chairman of the relevant committee of jurisdiction AND the chairman of the relevant Appropriations subcommittee.
FOURTH: To direct the Appropriations Committee members not to appropriate above the prior year’s appropriation for any program that has not been reauthorized after the deadlines set by the authorizing committee timetables, unless otherwise requested in writing by the chairman of the relevant committee of jurisdiction AND the chairman of the relevant Appropriations subcommittee.
Won’t this clog the committees with reauthorizing bills? No, because the committees will set their own timetables based on their own estimates of work load and priorities and can alter these timetables if necessary.
What happens if the reauthorization fails? Two things. The Appropriations Committee would not approve funding above the prior year’s level for that program, and the Rules Committee would expose that appropriation to a point of order – unless the chairmen of the authorizing committee and the appropriations subcommittee both agreed to do otherwise.
Wouldn’t this jeopardize vital programs like the State Department and the Coast Guard? No, the Rules Committee could still waive a point of order IF requested by the chairmen of both the relevant committee of jurisdiction AND the Appropriations subcommittee. The House could also exercise its will to override the point of order on the floor if a majority were so inclined.
Doesn’t this hamstring the Rules and Appropriations Committee members? When it comes to setting the agenda of the House, the Rules Committee members serve as a ministerial arm of the Republican Conference, and this rule would direct them in exercising this responsibility on behalf of the Conference. The Appropriations Committee members would be no more constrained under this provision than they already are not to enact appropriations above the 302(a) level.
What happens if the Senate approves funding for an unauthorized program after the deadline for reauthorization? The differences would be resolved in a conference committee, and conference reports are not subject to Rule XXI(2)(a).
What rules changes would be required? This reform could be enacted by a simple rule of the House Republican Conference, in the same manner as we currently ban earmarks.