This Week in Congress

The House is not in session this week. The Senate will be in session and will be considering the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

Like the House-passed budget, the Senate provides for the use of “reconciliation" for tax relief. The budget slows for $1.5 trillion in tax reform. It also provides for the use of reconciliation to consider $1 billion in cuts from programs under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The budget claims to reduce spending by $632 billion, but of course most of those cuts are not real cuts but cuts in the rate of growth.

The Senate bill claims to balance in ten years, but it relies on optimistic predictions of economic growth. The truth is the US economy is more likely to  suffer a downturn than uninterrupted growth.

One good point of the bill is it allows a Senator to raise a point of order striking “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding” (OCO). OCO is the Pentagon’s “slush fund” that allows the defense hawks to boost the Pentagon’s budget without the funding counting toward the official spending limitations.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to offer an amendment to strike this provision. Campaign for Liberty members should call their Senators and tell them to oppose the Graham amendment.

Here is a collation letter co-signed by Campaign for Liberty that provides more examination of the issue:

Dear Senator:

On behalf of our organizations and our combined memberships, we urge you to vote against Senator Graham’s (R-SC) amendment to strike Section 4104 of the Senate Budget Resolution. This section is a commonsense provision aimed at curbing abuses of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for the Pentagon.

Our organizations are on record as opposing the continued, profligate use of the OCO account to hike Pentagon spending by the expedient of taking it “off-budget” to avoid the caps set by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. We believe that every dollar of Pentagon spending should have strict Congressional oversight. The OCO budget should not be used by Congress as “free” money. This has led to the original purpose of the fund, to cover the unexpected and unbudgeted costs of overseas contingencies, being overridden by a desire to add more money to the Pentagon while avoiding the BCA caps.

Section 4104 establishes a Point of Order against designating funds as OCO spending. It would treat OCO the same way as emergency funding designations. The Point of Order may be suspended by an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the members of the Senate.

We agree with Senator Corker’s (R-TN) belief that OCO, “has been repeatedly abused to fund normal operations at the Departments of Defense and State in order to avoid exceeding statutory spending caps.”

We strongly believe Section 4104 provides additional tools for Senators to challenge this use of the OCO gimmick and instill additional oversight and accountability to this largely unchallenged category of Pentagon spending.

We urge you to vote against the Graham amendment.

Campaign for Liberty
Center for Freedom and Prosperity
Coalition to Reduce Spending
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Defense Priorities Initiative
National Taxpayers Union
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

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