Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Bipartisan Commission Proposed to Eliminate Wasteful Government Programs

Feb 11, 2011 | Other Spending| Budget Process

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of four Representatives introduced legislation to establish a permanent sunset commission. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Joe Walsh (R-IL) introduced the "Federal Program Sunset Commission Act" (H.R. 606) in an effort to abolish "duplicative, unnecessary, or inefficient programs."

The Commission would be in place indefinitely. Every year on September 1, the commission would give Congress a list of federal programs it feels should be eliminated and recommendations for programs to be improved or even consolidated. Within six months, the programs listed by the Commission would no longer receive federal funds, and all unobligated funds would be returned to the Treasury to reduce the deficit (effectively ending the program). Congress would have the ability to negate the Commission's recommendations and prevent elimination and defunding by merely reauthorizing the program.

Explaining the rationale for the bill, Rep. Cooper stated:

"Our government is bloated by too many wasteful federal programs. It is time to cut the fat. Congress needs to tighten its belt and take better care of taxpayer dollars. This bill is a good place to start."

Additionally, Rep. Schock stated:

"Getting Washington’s spending spree under control should be a bipartisan priority."

A famous example of a sunset commission exists in Texas (albeit with slightly different rules with the Legislature needing to approve the requested changes). Created in 1977, 58 agencies have been eliminated and 12 have been consolidated. Between 1982 and 2009, the commission has cost $28.6 million and saved $783.7 million, a ratio of 27/1.

We applaud these four members for working in a bipartisan fashion. While this bill wouldn't get us out of our fiscal mess, it is a good start towards government reform and would certainly contribute to deficit reduction. A commission like this would work quite well with statutory discretionary spending caps, and getting rid of wasteful and inefficient spending is an absolute imperative as we will have to scrutinize all areas of the budget in the near future.