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Congressman Pete Sessions

Representing the 32nd District of Texas


The power to appropriate funding is a legislative power. Our Constitution provides that, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

While appropriating funding is a legislative power, the most fundamental duty of Congress is to efficiently appropriate federal funds to ensure maximum value out of every tax dollar. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously. Throughout my years in Congress, I have worked with my colleagues to fund necessary endeavors, provide support to our troops and, eliminate unnecessary or duplicative federal programs.

When President Obama took office in 2009, the federal government spent $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending. By 2010, that number peaked at nearly $1.5 trillion annually. Since 2011, when Republicans won back the House we put forward a budget that held spending levels flat. Now, in 2016, our discretionary spending levels have been pushed back all the way to 2008 levels. Consistent with the governing philosophy we shared with the American people when we won back the House in a historic victory in 2010, our spending victories have driven the annual deficit down from $1.412 trillion in 2009 to $544 billion in FY2016. And we’ve achieved this significant deficit reduction while at the same time enacting $620 billion in permanent tax cuts, including a five year extension to bonus depreciation.

The future must not be ignored. Our total debt, which stands at over $19 trillion, exceeds 100% of our annual GDP. By 2026, estimates say it will exceed $29 trillion – equaling 106% of the economy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that we will spend nearly $5.8 trillion in interest payments alone over the next ten years financing that debt – approaching $1 trillion annually by the end of the decade. Interest on the debt will become the third largest federal spending program – more than we will be spending on defense, education, energy, and Medicaid. In FY2015 alone, 6% of the budget went solely to paying interest on our federal debt.

Simply put, we must decisively act to put our country’s fiscal house in order. Strategic actions require an in-depth understanding of how the government spends money and how to enact changes in order to shrink the federal government, balance the budget, and reduce our national debt. If Republicans master the budgetary process, we can work together to accomplish our shared conservative goals.

It is important to understand that the federal government spends money in two different categories – through mandatory spending and discretionary spending.  Mandatory spending – also called direct spending – is generally spending outside of the regular general appropriations bills.  It is often called entitlement spending because the law that authorizes the spending creates an “enforceable right”, or entitlement, to the benefit authorized by the statute.  Congress does not generally appropriate these dollars year over year, which is why they are often considered “auto-pilot” programs.

Mandatory spending programs are not set by annual appropriations acts passed by Congress and signed by the president into law. Examples of these types of programs are Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, ObamaCare, and some student loans and farm subsidies programs. In FY2015, $2.297 trillion – or 65% of the dollars spent by the federal government - went to mandatory spending programs.  Without reforms it is estimated that number will grow to $4.117 trillion, or 78% of government spending, by 2026.

In order to change the amount of funding spent on entitlement programs, the underlying law that created the enforceable right must be changed. This requires that both the House and the Senate pass identical bills that reform entitlement programs that the president then signs into law. In other words, in order to make the reforms necessary to get our fiscal house in order, the House, Senate, and the President must all agree on those changes and work through the constitutionally required process to enact a law.

The other way in which the government spends money is through discretionary spending. One of the core constitutional responsibilities of Congress is to pass legislation funding the daily operation and activities of the federal government. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution reads:  “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” The power to appropriate belongs exclusively to the legislative branch.

The primary framework of the congressional budget process is set forth in the Budget Act and House and Senate rules. Under this framework, Congress undertakes to pass a budget and then, within the constraints set out by that budget, pass 12 appropriations bills that provide discretionary funding for the fiscal year, which begins October 1.

Commonly a committee will authorize the spending amounts first, and then the Committee on Appropriations will provide the specific spending in the appropriations bills.  Examples of this type of spending include salaries and expenses for the FBI, the Agricultural Department and other agencies, as well as salaries, expenses, and equipment for the military. In FY2015, the federal government spent $1.17 trillion in discretionary spending, which is just under 30% of the total budget. 54% of discretionary spending was dedicated to the military, which means that, in all, of the $3.92 trillion that the federal government is projected to spend in FY2016, $488 billion, or just under 12.5%, will go to non-defense, non-mandatory spending programs.

We cannot allow past patterns to continue. Responsibly managing our nation’s finances is one of the most important obligations of Congress. The future of American prosperity depends on a fiscally-responsible House Republican Budget that fulfills the commitments of yesterday and puts forward a bold, pro-growth agenda for tomorrow.

More on Appropriations

September 25, 2009 Press Release

Washington, DC—U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-32) today released the following statement after House Democrats prioritized funding for Congress, shut out alternative solutions, and voted down taxpayer savings with the Fiscal Year 2010 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill/Continuing Resolution: