Blue Dogs Bark: They Want Spending Caps

Attempting to place a leash on federal spending, members of the Blue Dog Coalition are introducing legislation this week to reinstate discretionary spending caps. Led by Reps. Frank Kratovil of Maryland and Travis Childers of Mississippi, the legislation would impose caps that would cut non-security spending by nearly 2 percent in each of the next three fiscal years and then freeze those levels for an additional two years. The plan also would require a two-thirds vote in both houses for any "emergency" spending that would breach those limits.

“Although cutting discretionary spending will no doubt mean making tough choices about where to tighten our belts, it is the common sense way to focus on today’s national priorities while preparing for the future,” said Kratovil.

The Blue Dogs argue that discretionary spending caps had a proven track record of controlling spending during the 1990s and that since the expiration of those caps in 2002, discretionary spending has increased more than $538 billion. The Kratovil-Childers proposal is a key part of the Blue Dog overall budget plan, The Blue Dog Blueprint for Fiscal Reform.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget believes that along with the recently enacted PAYGO requirements, spending caps like the ones proposed by Kratovil and Childers can be effective tools in controlling federal spending. For all the discussion about mandatory spending, discretionary spending makes up nearly 40 percent of the budget. And -- - this area of the budget has grown tremendously, over the past decade, especially –and in fact, at a faster pace than mandatory spending. We reported in a recent paper that, between 1999 and 2008, mandatory spending grew annually an average of 6.4 percent, from about $900 billion to almost $1.6 trillion. In contrast, discretionary spending grew by an average 7.5 percent each year – from less than $570 billion to over $1.1 trillion.