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Bringing Accountability to ‘Zombie’ Appropriations




Spending on unauthorized programs accounted for nearly one-third of the federal government’s 2016 discretionary budget. The failure of Congress’s authorizing committees to exercise oversight, writes Justin Bogie, is one reason the government has a budget problem:

“One of Congress’ core constitutional authorities is to maintain the power of the purse. Authorization legislation, budget resolutions, and appropriations bills (collectively known as regular order) are key components of Congress’ oversight function. By authorizing agencies and programs on a regular basis, Congress is able to examine the activities that receive taxpayer dollars. This also allows Congress to consider the usefulness of government programs and make sometimes tough decisions about what the nation’s spending priorities should be.

With the gross federal debt now approaching $20 trillion, it is clear that Congress has a spending problem. Lack of oversight has at least in part contributed to this problem. Congress should be working toward reducing wasteful spending and finding ways to put spending and debt on a sustainable path. Yet at the very least, it should perform its oversight function and fully account for exactly how scarce taxpayer resources are being spent.

This week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., introduced the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act of 2017. Rodgers’ bill makes a strong push to begin the return to regular order, forcing Congress to do its job and regularly authorize agencies and programs. Under her USA Act, programs would be put on a three-year track to being sunset if they are not reauthorized.”

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