When Congress recently passed — without having read — a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that was more than 2,200 pages, fiscal conservatives were outraged by the gluttonous and wasteful spending it contained. President Donald Trump, who reluctantly signed the bill despite an initial threat to veto, expressed a similar sentiment when he made clear he would never sign another bloated spending bill like that again. And now it looks like he may be taking steps to undo some of that terrible bill.
Perhaps feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse or simply heat from their base, Trump and congressional Republican leaders recently held talks to find a way to trim some of the fat from the omnibus bill, according to Politico. The most likely way to do that would be through a process known as rescission, and Trump’s White House is reportedly working closely with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to put a package together that could cut billions of dollars from the recently passed spending bill, if approved by a simple majority in Congress.
In analysis for The Washington Times, Trump campaign economic adviser Steven Moore and Trump transition tax policy adviser James Carter explained some of the history and process behind the rescission budgetary maneuver, a rarely-used anti-spending tool that last saw favor under President Ronald Reagan.
Up until former President Richard Nixon, presidents had the power to “impound” and refuse to spend federal funds for projects they viewed as wasteful or unnecessary, something Nixon reportedly did with roughly 20 percent of the funds appropriated by Congress each year of his presidency until 1974.
That is when Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which blocked a president’s sole authority to impound funds and offered up the congressionally-approved rescission tool to stop funding for wasteful programs in its place. The process works by a president submitting a rescission proposal to the House of Representatives, which must then be approved by simple majorities in both chambers of Congress within 45 days. If the proposal is ignored or fails to achieve majorities, the spending remains unchanged.
Reagan proposed some 596 rescissions totaling $43 billion during his two terms, though Congress only approved 213 of those rescissions totaling only $16 billion in saved funds. Unfortunately, only about $6 billion in rescission proposals have been approved since Reagan left office, the last of which occurred in 1999.
It is worth noting that the Democrats’ chief obstructionist to Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, can do little to stop a rescission proposal from receiving a vote as debate on such measures are limited to only 10 hours and can’t be filibustered. However, given the slim majority held by Republicans in the Senate and the tendency of the more moderate establishment members to break away from their party and join the opposition to Trump, nothing is guaranteed.
That said, while some Republicans may not want to risk the wrath of the liberal media by revisiting and cutting some of the bloated budget deal, such a vote would really make the handful of Democrats running for reelection in red states — who are trying to convince voters they’re actually fiscal conservatives — particularly nervous, as where they come down on the issue would certainly be a hot topic during the campaign season.
Hopefully, Trump and his team of budget and economic advisers, working in conjunction with Congressional Republicans, can find a way to make use of the rescission tool to get rid of at least some of the wasteful spending that was stuffed into the omnibus bill to garner bipartisan support. If so, and if it is to be a worthwhile effort, they will need to do more than merely tinker around the edges with modest proposals and actually put forward some significant cuts. It would then be interesting to see how various members of Congress either accede to the cuts or defend the wasteful projects they have agreed to appropriate taxpayer funds.