Political News

Senate Rejects White House Plan to Cancel Unused Funding

Posted June 20, 2018 11:17 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected on Wednesday a White House plan to rescind nearly $15 billion in unspent funding that had been approved in past years. Two Republican senators joined Democrats to defeat what had been a largely symbolic effort.

The package of cuts, which President Donald Trump had promoted as “historic,” amounted to a gesture of fiscal responsibility after the passage in March of a $1.3 trillion spending bill that agitated conservatives.

Yet the plan to rescind unused funds would have had limited practical effect, as much of the funding was not expected to be spent anyway. The Congressional Budget Office said the bill would have reduced actual spending by only $1.1 billion over the next decade. By contrast, the deficit for just the current fiscal year is projected to near $800 billion.

A procedural vote on the bill failed in the Senate, with 48 senators in favor and 50 opposed. The two Republicans voting no were Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine. The House had narrowly approved the measure, known as a rescissions package, this month.

Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, lamented the bill’s rejection.

“It is disappointing that the Senate chose to reject this common-sense plan,” he said in a statement, “and the American people should be asking their representatives in Washington one simple question: If they cannot pass good-government legislation to recapture unnecessary funds, how can we ever expect them to address Washington’s staggering debt and deficit problem?”

Burr objected to a $16 million cut to conservation funds, according to an aide. Collins expressed opposition on institutional grounds. “I don’t like tipping the power of the purse to the executive branch,” she said.

Democrats were united against the bill, which would have rescinded $7 billion in funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, though the budget office said actual spending on the program would not have been affected.

As he criticized the bill, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, offered a reminder of the deficit-widening tax overhaul that Republicans passed last year and that the White House has celebrated.

Leahy urged his colleagues to vote no.

“Congress decides spending priorities,” he said, “not the president.”