Talk:Backdoor spending authority

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If you are going to lift language verbatim from a website, you probably should at least footnote it, or better put it into quotation marks. The budget committee may have one view of "backdoor spending authority", the appropriations committee a second view, the authorization committee a third view, and of course, the executive branch a fourth view. If spending authority is included in an authorization bill, the sponsors of the provision (as well as the executive branch) would not consider it to be a "backdoor" item. How "backdoor" could it be if the Congress votes to approve it and the President signs it? The only people who are bypassed are the appropriations committee staff. Wschact 17:59, 10 January 2013 (EST)

The cite is to the former Democratic Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee's own definition of Backdoor authority. The Rules Committee has the final say over what is voted upon on the floor, be it an appropriation bill or continuing resolution. This is a pretty authoritative source. OscarO 20:01, 10 January 2013 (EST)
If you look at the PDF file in Reference #3 at page 29-30, it uses the phrase "backdoor financing" rather than "backdoor spending authority." It is referring to government enterprises like Freddie Mac, Fanny Mae, etc. which issue their own debt to finance their own programs. There is a difference between authorizing an ancillary entity to spend non-appropriated funds ("spending authority") and authorizing an ancillary entity to borrow money ("financing"). I believe that the article in its current form conflates the two. I know that Slaughter used the term "backdoor", but it is used in a different sense in the PDF. Many thanks! Wschact 00:14, 11 January 2013 (EST)
You're on to something. Tax expenditures is what your talking about (I think); mortgage interest deductions is considered backdoor authority. Maybe we can work on clarifying some of that there? OscarO 00:21, 11 January 2013 (EST)
I am willing to work cooperatively with you or any other editor. However, I think we have a difference of view on some fundamental terms. So, working on the definition articles may help us work out a common understanding. Spending and financing are clearly different. "Tax expenditure" sounds very weird, but it represents foregone income and therefore may be "good policy" but it will always be bad for the deficit. Using the Federal government to backstop home mortgages looks like a "good policy" that will not have budget deficit impact, until the housing market collapses, people default, and the government must honor its guarantees. The authors of the PDF are advocating accounting schemes that assess the risk of federal loan guarantees and then build loss reserve contributions into the budget. I can see how most conservatives will like that approach, but there may be other solutions. Here is one plan of action:
  • Restore "spending authority" to its 2008 text.
  • Change this article to "backdoor financing" using the PDF as it main source.
  • Start articles on "private-public partnerships" (for both US and UK)
  • Start article on "tax expenditure"
  • As a second phase, have articles on the TVA, Bonneville Power Administration, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae and other similar institutions.
  • As a third phase come up with a series of article on the ongoing long term federal fiscal challenge, but update the fiscal cliff article with just the round-by-round jousting as each deadline approaches.
I understand that CP's audience level is home-schooled high school students, but I think that we can write easy to understand articles that are still technically correct. Thanks, Wschact 00:46, 11 January 2013 (EST)
Thanks for your kind words. Now, we must understand, the term "backdoor spending" was authored into U.S. law in the Budget Act of 1974. It's also known as 401(c) authority. Here's the actual text of the law (I think). These are big issues in the United States, and numerous attempts to reform it since its inception in 1932 as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation have always, it seems, made the matter worse.
We'll soon be having this discussion again with upcoming debt ceiling debate about March 1. Clarifying some of these deliberately ambiguous terms (like Borrowing authority, also known as "authority to spend debt receipts", pg.46), would be an extraordinary helpful first step for millions of interested parties and readers. OscarO 01:39, 11 January 2013 (EST)


The GAO Budget Glossary, which you just cited, has "Backdoor authority/Backdoor spending" defined on page 18:

A collective designation of authority provided in laws other than appropriation acts to obligate the government to make payments. *** (For a statutorily defined equivalent term, See Spending Authority....)

I agree that 2 U.S.C. Sec 651 stopped authorization bills from creating new "backdoors" around the appropriation process. 651(c) sets forth large categories of "non-appropriated funds" that are still outside the budget process, including Social Security and Medicare. I still have problems with the phrase "backdoor" because there is nothing inherently wrong with establishing government projects that are supported by user fees, public-private partnerships, donations, etc. Let us just call these "spending authority" and use the pre-existing 2008 article to define them. Wschact 02:11, 11 January 2013 (EST)

See the cite I just put in, "Borrowing authority, also known as ability to spend debt receipts". Borrowing authority is spending authority [1]. Several GAO Inspector Generals over decades all use backdoor authority and spending authority interchangeably. The confusion stems from authors like Ruth Marcus who wrote only yesterday, "The other points of leverage [for the GOP] — a government shutdown as spending authority expires, or allowing the spending sequester to take effect after the two-month delay — will also prove too painful and dangerous for Republicans to exploit" [2], when she just as easily could have wrote, "a government shutdown as backdoor authority expires...
As for me, I'm out for tonite. Looking forward to working with you on this later. OscarO 02:42, 11 January 2013 (EST)
No, I think she meant the expiration of the continuing resolution. The government may shut down, but non-appropriated activities (and certain essential emergency activities) will be able to continue. Wschact 00:05, 13 January 2013 (EST)

Statutory basis

The new material added in the past hour discusses "Section 401(d)" but I can't find that provision. Could we please agree to include citations to the US Code and perhaps links to the gpo or www.law.cornell.edu website so that readers can follow the discussion and read each law for himself? Thanks, Wschact 13:32, 11 January 2013 (EST)

I have cleaned up this page, which had a lot of incorrect information. For example the effective date was the start of the Second Session of the 94 Congress (1976), not 1974. This whole topic is "inside baseball" and can be very complicated. It is really not that important to the current debate over the fiscal crisis, but if the article will remain, it should be correct. The text confused spending authority with "tax expenditures" which are completely different. Both have a negative impact on the deficit, but "tax expenditures" can be enacted without going through an appropriations committee. Thanks, Wschact 23:03, 12 January 2013 (EST)
I still cannot find a source for the portion of the article text that claims that tax expeditures are subject to 2 USC 651. What is the source for the phrase "to allow United States government executive departments and agencies to forgo collection of proprietary offsetting receipts"? If you can't come up with a source it should all go out. Wschact 00:01, 13 January 2013 (EST)
Simpson-Bowles report calls tax expenditures backdoor spending. While open discussion of this may be something new, tax expenditures are the result of authorizing legislation that brings total federal spending in above or below baseline projections. Tax cuts must be "paid for" (since Gramm-Rudman). Hence tax cuts, loopholes, provisions, incentives, etc. have become "tax expenditures" needing budget authorization from congress, and its own article entry, too.
The most glaring reason for confusion is the radically different tracks the Rules Committees take under different party control. And readers should be able to understand how a statute law can be entirely dispensed with by procedural vote. If I can be partisan for moment, if the Republicans are to be criticized for anything, it is not even attempting reform such a nakedly abusive process that they rail against when they had effective one party control for 6 years (2001-07). Their hands aren't clean, either. OscarO 01:13, 13 January 2013 (EST)
  • "This whole topic is "inside baseball" and can be very complicated."

This is a good way to put it. The point is: Louise Slaughter and the Democrats took a Capitol Hill Jargon phrase and made legislative language out of it. And it reveals a way of thinking: Appropriations Committees of the 60s and 70s (and before) complained of "backdoor spending"; now members seek ways to sneak permanent spending authority beyond the reach of elected officials. IMHO, this is un-democratic, if not anti-democratic. OscarO 13:53, 1 March 2013 (EST)

Moved from User talk:Aschlalfy

Backdoor spending is spending on auto-pilot. Elected Congresspersons can't even control it. Only 31% of the budget is discretionary spending which they do control. But if the Senate under Reid refuses to pass a budget, or do appropriations (as mandated by law), the only control mechanism left that the peoples elected representatives have is the debt ceiling. The fact unprecedented, unsustainable deficits and accumulated national debt, destroying jobs and the US economy, is the result of backdoor spending is something conservatives very much are interested and would like to learn about it more detail. OscarO 12:39, 11 January 2013 (EST)
If OscarO intends for "backdoor spending authority" to have a negative connotation, then it is something different from "spending authority". So, the article that was last edited in 2008 should be restored, and kept separate from the new article that he wrote yesterday. Again, the fact that only 31% of the budget is discretionary spending may be a good thing. Some people advocate ending most non-defense discretionary spending. Many conservatives favor toll roads, user fees, public-private partnership and privatization over "tax and spend" centralized control. All of these approaches involve decision-making, not "spending on auto-pilot." If the appropriations committees (and Congress as a whole) have less power and control of the economy, conservatives would claim a victory. Wschact 12:57, 11 January 2013 (EST)
On the separate issue as to whether the Senate has written and passed appropriation bills, the Senate has done its usual work on appropriation bills, but in some cases, they are blocked from coming to the floor by a Senate Republican filibuster. Reid tried to roll them up into a single, government-wide appropriation bill, but that also drew a filibuster. So, generally speaking, during the past few years Congress has only been able to appropriate funds in the form of continuing resolutions generally based on a percentage of prior year's spending. The funds are being appropriated at least through March 2013. Work is underway for the FY 2014 budget. So, as soon as Congress resolves the rest of the FY 2013 spending debate, it will have to turn to FY 2014 and adopt appropriation bills before October 2013. We are paying 535 officials to debate and make decisions, but all of that work is replaced by McConnell and Biden meeting in secret to work out a last-minute deal. This is not healthy, but CP should be careful to report on it as accurately as possible. Wschact 13:17, 11 January 2013 (EST)
No, I don't think you've grasped the narrative that has ensued since President's Obama's first 100 days. Sen Susan Collins (R-ME) broke ranks and voted to waive the Budget Act of 1974, dispensing with the appropriations process. Under Slaughter House Rules, the ARRA (intended as only one year "emergency spending" stimulus) and PPACA were passed without bi-partisan consensus. With the Budget Act waived, there's no need for Senate Democrats to go through the regular Appropriations process. Senate Democrats have not passed, nor even proposed a budget in more than three years now, using continuing resolutions instead -- and keeping Obama's one year, "emergency stimulus" spending levels intact for four years. Hence $5 trillion added to the national debt without our elected Senators even being allowed to vote on appropriations. OscarO 13:51, 11 January 2013 (EST)
Respectfully, the comments just above show why "backdoor spending authority" and "spending authority" should be two separate articles. The "spending authority" article was written in 2007 and updated in 2008. It is accurate and objective. "Backdoor spending authority" which was started yesterday, is turning into an opinion essay. Let's look at the appropriation process for FY 2013. THOMAS summary. Both the House and the Senate Committee have passed most of the appropriation bills. The full House did not pass 5 of the bills, and all of the Senate bills were filibustered and not allowed to be brought to the floor for a vote. However, the overall spending levels for FY2013 were set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 which included $1 trillion in identified cuts in addition to an across-the-board sequester that was supposed to go into effect on Jan 1, but has now been postponed to Mar 1. Many of the appropriation bills have bipartisan support. For example the Senate Defense Appropriation bill passed 30-0. The Appropriations Committees are drafting bills and committee reports and spending cuts have been enacted. Rather than using the regular order of voting on appropriation bills and resolving differences in conference committees and the budget reconciliation process, Congress is shifting from a 525-person process to a two-man negotiation: McConnell/Biden. Continuing resolutions are a form of appropriation (although not a good one.) I respectfully submit that OscarO is misinterpreting sources that addressed the 2009 stimulus bill and the ACA as applying to the FY2013 or FY2014 spending considerations. Thanks, Wschact 16:40, 11 January 2013 (EST)
The THOMAS link supports exactly what I outlined. Read it. The only action agreed upon by both houses and signed by the president was a Supplemental. Then you have Continuing Appropriations Act (through 3/27/2013) which is not an "Act" or law and doesn't need the president's signature because it is a continuing resolution to continue spending levels based upon the FY 2012's continuing resolution, which was based upon 2011's continuing resolution, which was based upon 2010's continuing resolution, which was based upon the last time the President proposed a budget and Senate Democrats voted on and passed a budget (when Susan Collins broke the filibuster against the vote to waived the Budget Act) in 2009. (See Summary). Like wise the Budget Resolution HConRes112, which "the President does not sign", cause it's not a law, budget, or appropriation. It's just a joint resolution of both houses to continue spending at last years levels cause they can't agree on any changes to the budget and appropriations. Spending is on autopilot. And your Representative was sent there with nothing to do because he can't increase or decrease spending on anything beyond what was established in Obama's first 100 days. And in the Senate, he can't even vote on a budget cause neither the president nor Senate Democrats have even proposed a budget in 4 years, as required by the Budget Act f 1974. OscarO 19:02, 11 January 2013 (EST)
The THOMAS link contradicts your claims. It shows that the President signed the continuing resolution (which is a form of appropriation law) on September 28, 2012. also whitehouse.gov Look at page 127 of this OMB reference source which says, "The Congress must present these CRs to the President for approval or veto." The spending levels were NOT based on "2011's continuing resolution" because the top line numbers were set in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It is true that budget resolutions are not laws and are not signed by the President because they are just internal instructions for the Congressional committees. A "budget resolution" is a form of "joint resolution of Congress" and nothing more. What counts are the appropriation bill(s). Your claim that "the president ... have even proposed a budget in 4 years" is false. E.g., 2013, 2009. The worst that you can say is that Obama submitted the budget a few days late,[3] but he definitely has submitted it each year. After reading your comments on Talk:Main_Page#CBO_just_released_estimates_on_the_.22Fiscal_Cliff.22_Deal as well as your subsequent comments here, I am worried that you are not understanding the sources that you are citing. Perhaps we can agree that the "spending authority" article can be restored to its 2008 content, and I will leave you alone to write whatever you want in the "backdoor spending authority" article, even if it is wrong. I want to get along with all CP editors, but there seems to be a fundamental problem here. Thanks, Wschact 01:55, 12 January 2013 (EST)
You're right, I misspoke on the Continuing Appropriations Resolution (elsewhere called the Continuation Appropriations Act). That was the debt increase deal that set up the fiscal cliff. Continuing Appropriations don't set budget parameters, they payoff the debts the agencies run up out the backdoor ex post facto. This is near the core of the issue: Repubs want to use Appropriations to get a handle on some forms of spending (discretionary spending); Harry Reid & the Dems use Appropriations to plug leaks authorized by executive agencies through the backdoor. OscarO 11:35, 12 January 2013 (EST)
As to the comment, "spending levels were NOT based on "2011's continuing resolution" because the top line numbers were set in the Budget Control Act of 2011"; technically true, but in the Budget Control Act of 2011 which set up the sequester, the numbers were based upon the previous CR. No major spending or revenue changes occurred in 2011. OscarO 11:52, 12 January 2013 (EST)
Everyone agrees that there is a US fiscal problem. We can improve the situation by CP providing accurate information. The Budget Control Act of 2011 set lower top line spending numbers and the sequestration. The act identified a specific set of budget cuts worth $1 trillion, and provided for sequestration which would cut an additional $1.2 trillion (over 10 years.) Your assumption about autopilot based on prior CRs is not correct. Also, all of these cuts deal with appropriated funds (discretionary spending). You are mistaken about "the agencies run up out the backdoor ex post facto." Agencies operating off of non-appropriate funds such as user fees in most cases do not drive up the national debt. However, "backdoor" is such a vague term that I am not certain which agencies you meant. Thanks, Wschact 13:23, 12 January 2013 (EST)
The Budget Control Act and sequestration were agreed upon, passed, and signed by the president; however implementation has been delayed 60 days, so even after passage and deadlines, backdoor spending on auto-pilot continues right now. And now, all cuts do not deal with just appropriated discretionary spending. The delay was due to the pain associated with cuts to mandatory entitlement spending. Again, we're close to the nexus of dispute between Dems & Repubs, libs & conservs; conservatives believe elections and democratic representation in congress should allow for an elected member to act on spending control and deficits, but under current law, members of congress have little control over mandatory spending and deficits. OscarO 14:31, 12 January 2013 (EST)

{outdent}With all due respect, where are you getting this information? May I suggest that you read Bob Woodward's The Price of Politics for a detailed account of the 2011 negotiations? Read any summary of the Budget Control Act of 2011: the Act set the spending levels for FY 2012 and FY 2013 below the continuing resolution level of FY 2011. In addition, it required sequestration of an additional $1.2 trillion in mandatory savings effective January 1. The "fiscal cliff" law found enough revenue increases and budget cuts to fund a two month delay in the sequestration. (For example, the law cancelled the cost-of-living increase in Congressional salaries.) These cuts are effective immediately. So, your "autopilot" claim and other statements immediately above are not true. Are you willing to join me in a request to restore the "spending authority" article as a separate page? Thanks, Wschact 19:07, 12 January 2013 (EST)

You are correct there was some moderation in spending levels as a result of the 2010 midterms. But you're still claiming federal spending is determined by the appropriations process, and it's not; and the appropriations process pre-determines spending levels, and it does not. The appropriations process now just authorizes payment for spending that executive agencies have already have engaged in. Likewise you haven't addressed waiver of the Budget Act, which gave blank check authority to executive agencies and continues on autopilot through CR's. And allows both the president and Senate Dems to not only NOT propse a budget, but also our elected officials from voting on it. OscarO 19:33, 12 January 2013 (EST)
I have address that in prior comments. Please respond to my direct question: are you willing to see the protection on "spending authority" removed and the article restored to its 2008 version? Thanks, Wschact 19:37, 12 January 2013 (EST)
Show us where "backdoor" authority was re-defined in subsequent legislation after the 1974 Budget Act as something other than "spending authority", and you'd have a case. But I don't think it can be found. OscarO 19:59, 12 January 2013 (EST)
With all due respect, show me (with a US Code citation) where "backdoor authority" is defined in the statute. Thanks, Wschact 20:08, 12 January 2013 (EST)
See Deschler's Precedents p. 1897; also p. 1889 and this ref. OscarO 20:59, 12 January 2013 (EST)
So to sum up, the phrase is not used in the 1974 Act or any other statute, it is different from "spending authority", and you made up the term "backdoor spending authority." What objection to you have to restoring the "spending authority" article in the form that has been on CP since 2008? Wschact 22:16, 12 January 2013 (EST)
It's exactly as Rules Committee Chairwoman cited in the article describes, "defined in section 401(c)(2) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, as amended." OscarO 23:02, 12 January 2013 (EST)
We should ignore liberal claptrap. How about my proposal? Wschact 23:08, 12 January 2013 (EST)
Liberal claptrap added at $5 trillion to the national debt (1/3 of GDP) in just the last 4 years. don't you feel people have right to know how it was done? OscarO 23:23, 12 January 2013 (EST)
With all due respect, people have the right to know accurate information on the fiscal challenges. However, you are confused about "backdoor authority" adding $5 trillion to the national debt in the last 4 years. Trust funds and non-appropriated funds represent government spending that have separate revenue sources. In general, they do not contribute to the budget deficit. They are funded from user fees. (For example, when someone makes purchases at the Army base PX, money was spent to buy the merchandise, but the purchaser pays for what he buys.) The government collecting user fees helps the budget deficit, not hurts. This is taking far too much of Andy's valuable time. Let's resolve this by lifting the protection on "spending authority". Wschact 23:37, 12 January 2013 (EST)

<-- ok, answer this question (which even readers at the democraticunderground struggle with): Why hasn't the Democratic-led Senate submitted/passed a budget in 3 years? Answer: because backdoor spending puts spending on auto-pilot and there's no need for a budget. OscarO 01:32, 13 January 2013 (EST)

I am sure you sincerely believe your answer, but it is not true. My personal opinion (which I will leave out of the articles) is that the Senate and the House cannot agree on "special instructions" so the Senate Republicans use a filibuster threat to prevent the full Senate from debating and voting on the annual budget resolution. The budget resolution, as you have agreed, is just a joint resolution of Congress. It is the appropriation bills that actually count, and the Senate Republicans have filibustered those as well, even when they pass the committee on a bipartisan 30-0. You are confusing cause and effect. The cause is politics, not the structure of spending authority. Government is so large that Congress should focus on what is important. The Army base restocking the PX with merchandise is not important and does not affect the budget and should be on "auto-pilot". Please don't confuse a concept with the bad results from it being possibly misapplied. Please don't confuse turf fights between the appropriations committees and the authorization committees with policy debates on the size of government. Write the article so that it is true at both the state and federal level, and if applicable the world. Now, how about lifting the protection on "spending authority"? Thanks, Wschact 09:23, 13 January 2013 (EST)
Wrong. The Budget cannot be filibustered. The Washington Post Fact Checker awarded Treasury Secretary-nominee Jack Lew its top award of four Pinocchios for fibbing on this canard. Also, while a PX operating at a loss or legislative pay raises may impact somewhere like New Zealand's operating deficit, I doubt if these items approximate .00001% of the US federal budget. It should not be too hard to check. But repeated references to such lame, miniscule, and obscure items show you haven't grasped even the broad outlines of the magnitude of the problem. I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but examine the numbers, and examine the facts seriously, for a moment. Thank you. OscarO 14:21, 13 January 2013 (EST)
The cats out of the bag. The president today said, "to even entertain the idea of this happening -- of the United States of America not paying its bills -- is irresponsible." So the debt limit is to be lifted, not to provide a framework for spending by appropriations in the coming year's budget, but rather to "pay the bills" for debts already incurred by previous authorizations and backdoor entitlements. OscarO 23:41, 14 January 2013 (EST)
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