But Wait, There’s More

President Donald Trump (Source: By Michael Vadon under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Trump’s wish list of budget eliminations connect with his overall efforts to get rid of programs he opposes. And that connects as well to his more recent move to rescind some of the money Congress already authorized for specific programs.

On May 8, the Trump administration submitted a request to Congress to pull back $15.4 billion already approved for funding various programs. It’s called a “rescission.” On June 5, the White House had amended the rescission request, removing some cuts and modifying others.

As of June 7, CNN reported, the House had approved the president’s proposal by a narrow vote – 210 to 206. The rescissions, according to CNN, are unlikely to go far in the Senate. Conservative groups urge passage of the package, while Democrats are attacking the proposed cuts. “While the package nixes $15 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it will essentially only save the government about $1 billion,” according to CNN.

Rescission 2018

“At the direction of President Trump, the Office of Management and Budget has worked diligently to identify wasteful and unnecessary spending already approved by Congress,” said Russ Vought, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Specifically, the White House, said, “the proposed rescissions affect programs of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, and the Treasury, as well as of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Railroad Retirement Board, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the United States Agency for International Development.”

According to the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center, Trump’s move to rescind approved funding is unusual – at least for a president. “This budget tool is not regularly used by a president; the last time was by the Clinton administration,” the BPC says on its website. “While it is unusual for a president to seek a rescission, Congress itself regularly does rescission packages within annual supplemental appropriations so that funds that have not been spent can be used elsewhere.”

Vought cast the president’s rescission request in a somewhat different light. “While this authority hasn’t been used in nearly two decades, every president from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton successfully rescinded funds,” he wrote. “From 1974 to 2000, approximately 40 (percent) of presidential rescission proposals were enacted in some form. Members of Congress in both parties have supported rescissions packages similar to the one President Trump is proposing.”

The White House described the proposed rescissions as a necessary step toward eliminating unnecessary programs – and the first rescission package of several. “President Trump’s first rescissions package targets spending that is unnecessary, unused, or cannot be used for its original purpose. Some of the funds included in the president’s request were appropriated many years ago, but have never been used …”

Programs Affected

Funds in President Trump’s first proposed rescissions package include:

  • $4.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which has not made a loan since 2011.
  • $523 million from the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, which had its authority to make new loan guarantees lapse in 2011.
  • $800 million from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which is in excess of the funds needed in fiscal years (FY) 2018 or 2019 and will receive a new appropriation of $10 billion in 2020.
  • $252 million in excess funds remaining from the 2015 Ebola outbreak response, an epidemic the World Health Organization declared to be over in 2016. Withdrawn as of June 5
  • $133 million from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits program that expired in 2012.
  • $148 million from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, including funds for outbreak response for disease incidents that have been resolved.”
  • As of June 5 the White House has withdrawn several other proposed rescissions in the original May 8 request, including amounts from the Miscellaneous Appropriations account of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation and Miscellaneous Highway Trust Funds account of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation; and the Environmental Programs and Management account of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rescissions are contained in a document sent to Congress, including nearly 40 pages of cuts per department and justifications for pulling the money back from the agencies. Many of the justifications listed explain that the money allocated isn’t needed to fund the agency or it’s targeted program for fiscal year 2018.

But other justifications note that funding the agency or the program would not fit the administration’s priorities.

For example, Trump wants to rescind $16 million set aside for acquiring land under the Forest Service, “to further Agency land management objectives for landscape restoration, outdoor recreation and public access, conservation of wildlife habitat, and protection of water quality.” The justification goes on to say that “The proposed rescission would reduce unobligated budget authority that is inconsistent with the President’s policies. Enacting the rescission would eliminate land purchase projects in national forests, while projects to increase open public access for hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses would continue to be funded from the amounts available.”

Another proposed rescission would target programs under the Economic Development Administration aimed at competitive economic development grants to economically distressed communities. The White House says the authorization for the program expired 10 years ago, the programs are duplicated in other initiatives, and “enacting the rescission would not impact EDA’s ability to obligate funds appropriated in FY 2018, but would reduce the total funds available for award.”

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation would be affected, with $800 million removed from its budget. “The Innovation Center was created to test innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce program expenditures under Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP while preserving or enhancing quality of care. These funds are in excess of amounts needed to carry out the Innovation Center’s planned activities in FYs 2018 and 2019, and the Innovation Center will receive a new mandatory appropriation in FY 2020. Enacting the rescission would allow the Innovation Center to continue its current activity, initiate new activity, and continue to pay for its administrative costs,” according to the White House.

Under the department of Housing and Urban Development, Trump’s rescissions would include cutting the Public Housing Capital Fund from $2 million to $1 million. The fund, as the White House notes, “largely provides formula modernization grants to public housing authorities to address the capital repair needs in about one million units of public housing, in addition to set-asides for resident self-sufficiency programs and other programmatic needs.” The justification for cutting the allocation of funds: “The proposed rescission would reduce budget authority that is inconsistent with the president’s policies.”

“Enacting the rescission would reduce prior year balances available for capital repair needs, emergency repairs including safety and security measures, physical inspections, administrative and judicial receiverships, and Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) grants. Amounts appropriated in FY 2018 for the Public Housing Capital Fund could be used for some of these activities.”

Similar justifications are outlined for eliminating separate amounts of $5,243,222 and more than $34 million under the Public Housing Capital Fund scheduled to be used for initiatives including Jobs-Plus grants.

Some housing affordability measures also would be eliminated under the president’s rescissions request. For instance, the Capital Magnet Fund “is a competitive grant program that funds housing nonprofits and Community Development Financial Institutions to finance affordable housing activities, as well as related economic development activities and community service facilities,” as noted in the White House justification for eliminating $151 million allocated to the fund. The Trump administration contends “that State and local governments and the private sector have a greater role to play in addressing affordable housing needs.”

The White House rescissions would eliminate $10 million that funds an EPA program “for competitive water quality research and support grants, which are duplicative with other Federal programs.”

On May 25, a group of Republican senators introduced a bill designed to support the White House request to eliminate already approved spending.  According to the The Hill’s website, Republicans could struggle passing the legislation without help from Democrats, who have balked because the package targets funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as well as funds designated for the 2015 Ebola outbreak.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voiced concerns about parts of the GOP bill – he was not a co-sponsor of it – telling The Hill that the package “could take funds away from a lot of us in the South, on transportation. And that’s not going to be a very popular thing.”

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, “if Congress doesn’t approve the president’s rescissions within 45 days, the president has to release the rescinded monies to the agencies. So, he needs a positive vote from Congress, and on this issue that is a simple majority vote in the House and Senate.”