Senator: Appropriations bill promising $1 billion cut will increase spending by more than $9 billion

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Despite claims that an appropriations bill the Senate is expected to pass Tuesday will cut spending from last year by $1 billion, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Budget Committee, contends that the bill will in fact increase spending by nine times that amount.

The bill is a called a “mini-bus” bill because it bundles together three different appropriations bills that will fund the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies.

Democrats contend that the bill will cut spending by $1 billion, but according to numbers provided by the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff, due to increased funds for disaster relief and mandatory appropriations, the bill, H.R. 2112, will actually increase spending.

The reduction in spending, according to the numbers, comes from a decline in regular spending from the over $128 billion enacted in Fiscal Year 2011 to over $127 billion proposed for Fiscal Year 2012. In a floor speech Monday, Sessions called the reduction “paltry” relative to the country’s total debt.

He lamented that spending for disaster relief would increase from $101 million to $2.7 billion dollars. Sessions called such money a “slush fund” because it could be appropriated without being counted toward the total spending.

“Why?” Sessions asked. “Well, it’s a disaster, and disaster spending doesn’t count. Don’t you know?”

Sessions’ second concern was the mandatory spending, which is another chunk of funding that Sessions said “the bill’s sponsors say you should not count … they insist that mandatory spending is not under the control [of] appropriators.”

According to the Budget Committee Republican staff’s numbers, the mandatory appropriations would rise from just over $109 billion to just over $117 billion, for an increase of $8 billion.

In total, Republicans say, that amounts to a $9.4 billion increase, none of which is counted toward the final sum, a fact Sessions called “logic that only exists in Washington.”

Sessions also focused on two specific “gimmicks” that he said were used in the bill to make it look like money was being saved. The first are CHIMPS, or Changes in Mandatory Program Spending, which Sessions explained as the equivalent of “a family delaying a single $500 home repair for ten years, and then counting it as $5,000 in savings — $500 for every year the repair didn’t take place.”

The second gimmick is “to rescind discretionary appropriations provided in prior years that for one reason or another can no longer be spent for their intended purposes… Rather than letting the appropriations lapse and saving this money and being thankful we got the project done at less than normal, less than the projected cost, this bill, as has been done before pretends to be responsible and rescinds that money, which is then used to pay for spending that will in fact result in cash expenditures from the treasury.”

“It just cannot be contended that this is serious work toward reducing our deficit,” Sessions said. “It just cannot be.”

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