What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Government Funding for a Broad Range of Human Needs : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution) Thomas of Wyoming amendment to remove some spending flexibility from congressional budget rules/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 96)
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution) Thomas of Wyoming amendment to remove some spending flexibility from congressional budget rules/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 96     Mar 22, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on an amendment by Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. Thomas' amendment would have deleted all of the so-called "reserve funds" in the underlying measure (22 in total).

The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules. When Congress violates these rules -- such as allocating more money for a program than what they had set out in the budget resolution -- the measure can be defeated on a procedural motion. However, the budget resolution also typically contains several "reserve funds" that provide some spending flexibility for certain designated programs. Reserve funds allow Congress to adjust the funding levels for some programs even after the budget resolution is enacted into law, as long as the House and Senate Budget committees agree to the change. This allows Congress to potentially spend more money on these programs than they had intended when Congress passed the budget resolution, without violating budget rules. Removing these reserve funds, as Thomas' amendment seeks to do, would make it more difficult for Congress to exceed its original spending targets for some programs once the budget resolution is passed.

"This budget contains 22 separate funds, the purpose of which is to allow spending beyond the limits specified in the budget decision. In a vast majority of cases, the additional spending authority is totally unchecked. Not only is spending unchecked, there is actually no money in any of these reserve funds," Thomas said in arguing for his amendment. "Now, I know we have designated reserve funds in the past for various things, but the practice is not one we should encourage or continue or proliferate."

Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the reserve funds do not actually spend any money. He said no money gets expended until the committee that has jurisdiction over the issue the reserve fund is dedicated to actually drafts its own bill on the subject.

"This amendment would knock out every reserve fund--every one that has been put in by Republican Senators, every one that has been put in on this side. It would knock out the reserve fund for SCHIP, children's health care. It would strike the reserve fund for veterans. It would strike the reserve funds for tax relief, for education, for energy, for the farm bill, for Medicare, for housing, for childcare, for mental health parity. It would knock out Senator Cornyn's reserve fund for immigration, and on and on," Conrad said.

The amendment was overwhelmingly defeated 20-67, with 18 Republicans joining Democrats in voting it down. Thus, the budget resolution went forward with its 22 reserve funds intact, retaining funding flexibility for those programs.

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