The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) establishes a process for canceling unnecessary and unused funding to executive branch agencies. On May 8, President Trump exercised his authority under the ICA and formally requested Congress rescind $15.4 billion in “unobligated balances”—money that was previously appropriated but never spent. From the time of the request, a 45-day countdown began for congressional action, making their deadline June 22.
Once a rescission bill is introduced and referred to the relevant committee—House Appropriations or Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees—the committee has 25 calendar days to report the bill and send to the full chamber for debate. Debate is limited to two hours in the House, ten hours in the Senate, and two hours for a conference report. Thus bill cannot be unobstructed by the filibuster.
While this is not a new process, many current lawmakers and staff have never gone through the steps before. The President’s request is a small down payment on years of congressional promises of fiscal restraint and will build the necessary muscle memory to return for another round of cuts in the future.
President Trump’s initial proposal cuts back previously appropriated money that is, “no longer necessary, has been diverted from its original intent, or has sat unused for years,” including:
- $7 billion from unnecessary or expired CHIP programs;
- $4.3 billion from the Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, inactive since 2011;
- $523 million from the Energy Department’s Title 17 “innovative technology” loan guarantee program, inactive since 2011;
- $252 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 2015 Ebola response;
- $148 million from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for already-resolved disease outbreaks;
- $133 million from a Railroad Retirement Board program that ended in 2012;
- $107 million from unused watershed rehabilitation programs following Superstorm Sandy; and
- $47 million from a Federal Transit Administration account that has stagnated for 13 years.
“Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly apparent that Washington has no appetite for fiscal restraint,” wrote former Heritage Action vice president and current deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought. “President Trump stands ready to put our fiscal house back in order and put the American taxpayer first. Does the rest of Washington?”
Several Senators and Representatives have come out in support of President Trump’s rescission package, but in order to build momentum for a larger rescissions package, Sentinels need to put pressure on the House to have a strong showing of support. Only then can we shift attention to the Senate and acquire the votes necessary to lay the foundation for going after the next pot of wasteful money.
Key Talking Points
Demonstrates commitment to fiscal restraint. According to a Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans are “a great deal” or “a fair amount” concerned with federal spending and the budget deficit. While this package is clearly just a first step, congressional Republicans can demonstrate to midterm election voters that they will govern responsibly and steward taxpayer dollars if re-elected to the majority. Failing to vote for a $15.4 billion rescissions package would do quite the opposite.
Strengthens muscle memory for the future. Though the rescissions process has been utilized in past administrations, this will be the first time staff have had to go through the steps in 20 years. By going after unobligated funds first, current lawmakers and staff have the chance to build familiarity and confidence—and then come back at the new spending!
Takes away congressional “funny money.” This is basic housekeeping. Once rescinded, Congress will no longer be able to use the $15.4 billion as “pay-fors,” unspent money that can be redirected from an old program to a new program. Unused tax dollars should return to the taxpayers, not stay in a congressional slush fund.
These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. Always remember to make these notes your own and include a personal story if you have one relating to the topic. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Scorecard.
Hi, this is [NAME] from [CITY].
I am calling to ask [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] to support President Trump’s $15 billion rescission request. Far too many members of Congress promise fiscal restraint during campaigns, but few ever try to deliver on that promise. The President’s rescissions request is a small down payment on those long standing promises.
It is important to me, as a constituent, that the federal government cut government waste. President Trump’s request to rescind unspent money from programs that no longer have the authority to spend, are dormant, or are no longer necessary is good housekeeping. Every taxpayer dollar should be spent carefully or returned to the American people.
This is not a new process. In fact, every president from Ford to Clinton successfully rescinded funds. From 1974 to 2000, Members of Congress in both parties have supported rescissions packages similar to this one.
I would like [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] to honor that tradition, stand up for fiscal sanity, and support President Trump’s rescission request.
Thank you, and please pass along my message to [MEMBER OF CONGRESS].