Bipartisan House Bill Would Keep Extra Congressional Allowances Unspent

Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Pat Tiberi (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan bill (H.R. 3077, the Giveback Deficit Reduction Act) this week to cut a little fat out of Congressional budgets. The bill would require that unspent allowances be returned to the Treasury to be used for deficit reduction. While the bill would have only a very small effect on the deficit, it at least shows that members of Congress are willing to tighten their own budgets before having to make the larger changes necessary to put debt on a sustainable path.

As a recent Congressional Research Service report notes, appropriations bills and continuing resolutions since the late 1990s have already required that unspent allowances for House offices be used for deficit reduction, so this bill would make permanent the existing requirement rather than leaving it up to appropriators to put it in each year. The Senate, though, typically allows a small portion to be used for the following two fiscal years – for example, the FY 2015 CROmnibus kept $19 million of the $390 million available through FY 2017 – so the bill would prohibit the use of this money.

The overall effect would be very small – especially since Senate offices may not use the extra money available to them anyways – but the principle is important: lawmakers should make sure to trim their own budgets where appropriate as they look to make broader changes to spending. We applaud the spirit of the Giveback Deficit Reduction Act and hope Congress will give it due consideration.