The Washington Post

Some reductions in spending bill span philosophical divide

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

The $1.1 trillion appropriations bill making its way through Congress includes a number of provisions that have found support from both sides of the philosophical spectrum.

The National Taxpayers Union and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), two think tanks normally at odds over how to reduce the deficit, agree with several of the provisions, particularly proposed cuts in funding for certain defense projects and federal agencies that have been called into question for their usefulness.

The two organizations proposed similar cost-cutting measures in a joint report they recently published, titled “Toward Common Ground.” The recommendations included ending “wasteful tax subsidies for agribusiness and other corporations,” eliminating low-priority and unnecessary defense programs, improving government operations and entitlement reform.

The spending bill includes three specific recommendations from that report. They include:

1.) Reducing funding for development of a new ground combat vehicle and the Navy’s cruiser-modernization program, both of which the Pentagon and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office have highlighted for potential problems and waste.

2.) Cutting military construction projects by more than $1 billion over 10 years. The think tanks recommended a higher reduction of $4 billion over 10 years, but they say the spending bill takes a step in the right direction.

3.) Reducing funding for the Economic Development Administration by $74 million. U.S. PIRG said the agency has been “fraught with inefficiencies for years and has been a source for many wasteful Congressional earmarks.”

Despite those measures, U.S. PIRG has criticized Congress for preserving a “host of special interest handouts.” The group said in a statement on Thursday that lawmakers should have cut off funding to clean up abandoned mines that it claims have already been cleaned up, in addition to stopping tax write-offs for the international advertising bills of trade associations.

“There is much more low hanging fruit when it comes to wasteful spending and inefficient federal programs,” said Jaimie Woo, a tax and budget analyst with US PIRG. “The omnibus bill chips away at some waste, but leaves the budget laden with billions in wasteful expenditures, all the while making cuts to critical public priorities.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail with news tips and other suggestion.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · January 16, 2014

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