Study: Sharpest Rise in Budget-Cut Legislation in 12 Years, Yet Spending Still Ruled in 111th Congress

Mar 15, 2011, 17:03 ET from National Taxpayers Union Foundation

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Even though the 111th Congress saw a sharp rise in authorship of bills to cut federal spending, legislative activity to boost federal expenditures still dominated the agenda, according to one of many findings from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's (NTUF's) latest BillTally study.

Since 1991, the BillTally cost accounting system has computed a "net annual agenda" based on each Senator's or Representative's individual sponsorship or co-sponsorship of legislation.  This unique approach provides an in-depth look at the fiscal behavior of lawmakers, free from the influence of committees, party leaders, and rules surrounding floor votes. Cost estimates for bills are obtained from third-party sources or are calculated from neutral data. Findings include:

  • The 111th Congress saw the highest number of spending-cut bills NTUF has recorded since the 105th Congress (1997-1998). Yet, for every proposed spending cut, House Members offered 13 spending increase proposals. Senators offered 18 increases for every cut (even before adjusting for duplicate spending cuts).
  • Representatives proposed a startling average of five bills that would increase spending for every day their chamber was in session during 2009 and 2010, versus one reduction every other day. Senators offered the equivalent of three spending bills per session-day and only one spending-cut bill every six days.
  • For the first time since the 105th Congress (a period of 12 years) the average House Republican's legislative agenda would cut spending. A typical House GOP agenda consisted of a net proposed reduction of just over $78 billion. The average House Democrat proposed a net of nearly $539 billion.
  • The typical Senate Republican sought a net of $25.4 billion in greater spending. The average Senate Democrat was less aggressive than their House colleagues with a $195.6 billion net agenda.
  • The number of "net cutters" – Members whose net agendas would reduce the budget –jumped to 163 in the House and 32 in the Senate, an increase of 119 and 25, respectively, from the 111th Congress. They remained outnumbered by those calling for major spending hikes of more than $100 billion; these ranks swelled to 170 in the House (up from 149 in the last Congress) and 43 in the Senate (down from 44 in the previous Congress).

"In the 111th Congress, more Members actively sought out savings, but those pushing for higher spending without corresponding budget cuts ultimately had their way," NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady concluded. "Taxpayers will soon know whether the 112th Congress will take a different direction and tackle our growing budget crisis head-on."

NTUF is the research affiliate of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit taxpayer advocacy group founded in 1969. For more information on the BillTally system, visit

SOURCE National Taxpayers Union Foundation