Last night, House
leadership finally released a promising action plan to offset
hurricane relief and rebuilding costs, reduce the growth of
spending, and limit government. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
(R-IL) adamantly declared, "We can and will recover, but it will
require some serious belt-tightening throughout the federal
Considering the ballooning $2.5 trillion federal budget and the
added financial pressure from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it will
take major offsets and a high degree of accountability to prevent
hurricane recovery and rebuilding from becoming the next excuse to
expand the size and scope of government. The House leadership's
four-point plan is a major step in the right direction-towards
This plan, supported by House Republican
leadership, committee chairmen, and key conservative members,
focuses on four points:
Increasing mandatory savings from $35 billion to $50 billion in
this year's budget reconciliation;
Holding the line on discretionary spending through across-the-board
Working with the President to rescind prior spending
Eliminating duplicative, wasteful, and unnecessary programs.
The President's budget proposal identified
potential savings in ineffective programs of $20 billion, and agency managers are
well-placed to find additional waste to accommodate
across-the-board cuts. Entitlement spending, meanwhile, is the
biggest threat to our economy and must be reformed. While there
have been no details presented as of yet-this plan is still in its
beginning stages-there will be ample opportunity to make these
broad proposals a reality.
The House Republican
Study Committee (RSC) recently released its "Operation Offset"
effort, a menu of over $500 billion in specific cuts to pay for
hurricane-related spending. The RSC's long list of offset targets
include sensible recommendations that Congress should consider,
such as redirecting funding for the 6,000 earmarked projects in the
recent highway bill, eliminating the Advanced Technology Program,
and reducing farm subsidies.
In addition, Sen.
John McCain, (R-AZ) and the RSC have targeted the new Medicare
prescription drug benefit and proposed to cancel, or at least
delay, its implementation. The drug benefit alone is projected to
cost $37.4 billion next year.
If Congress-and the
House leadership-is serious about holding the line on spending,
Members must follow two key steps:
funding from all earmarks in the recent highway bill and reject any
earmarks in future appropriations bills. If Congress falls short on
this, the President must veto any bill that contains
- At a minimum,
postpone the unaffordable Medicare prescription drug benefit for
one year to consider how to pay for it or whether it should be
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Chairman of the RSC,
challenged Congress and the President to have "courage to make the
He's right: writing budgets is about setting priorities and making
those tough choices. That should not deter House leadership from
following through with its bold proposal. The rest of Congress
should join in this effort.
Muccio is Research Assistant in, and Alison
Fraser is Director of, the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic
Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.