House Republicans approved $15 billion worth of “rescission” spending cuts late Thursday night in a tiny step to make up for that $1.3 trillion omnibus package passed earlier this year.
President Donald Trump proposed the cuts to rescind billions of unused or unnecessary funds from various government programs. House lawmakers approved the measure on a 210 to 206 vote, with all but 19 Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposed. The Senate still needs to approve the package before it can be sent to Trump for his signature.
Republicans argued the move is a simple housecleaning of the budget since the funds weren’t going to be used for their intended purpose. Democrats countered that the package would drain funds from needed programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“[It] would rescind funding that is not needed for its intended purposes, or that has been sitting unused within agencies for years, and return it to the American taxpayer,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement after the vote.
“President Trump and this administration are fully committed to protecting taxpayers, and Senate passage of this legislation is critical to reducing wasteful, unnecessary spending and making our federal government more efficient, effective and accountable.”
The White House also urged the Senate to quickly pass it, too. Trump sent lawmakers the package in early May under the Watergate-era Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was the main sponsor of the measure in the House.
“We are approaching the end of spring, but there is plenty of time for a good spring cleaning,” McCarthy said before the vote. “There are billions of taxpayer dollars, originally set up to fund different programs and projects, that cannot or will not be used for their intended purpose. Tonight, the House will do something about it.”
McCarthy also called out Democrats for making the issue partisan. He noted that it is a simple procedure to clean up the budget that has been used in past administrations without so much partisan unrest. He added that cuts won’t take away funds that will be used by programs such as CHIP since the funds being cut were appropriated to the program before it was given a longer and more stable budget February 8.
“We debated this issue many times on the floor this year, where one side on the aisle in the majority passed it,” McCarthy said. “We passed it and made history. How did we make history? Because we signed the longest reauthorization of the CHIP program, guaranteeing its funding for 10 years, a full decade.”
Democrats saw the rescission package in a completely different light while debating it before the vote. They argued that the cuts would hurt employment and social welfare programs like CHIP, Medicaid and Medicare, and that unspent funds could still be used elsewhere.
“This bill eliminates billions of dollars in funding for children’s health insurance, which will prevent Congress from making smart and compassionate reinvestment in biomedical research and other child and maternity community health programs.”
“The deception includes this ludicrous notion that all the money being repealed and pulled back wouldn’t be used otherwise,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said before the vote. “This bill eliminates billions of dollars in funding for children’s health insurance, which will prevent Congress from making smart and compassionate reinvestment in biomedical research and other child and maternity community health programs, which we could do if this bill wasn’t on the floor being forced down all our throats.”
Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats said pulling back the unspent funds was done to help fund Trump’s tax cuts.