Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

GOP Pledge-O-Meter

Cancel unspent stimulus


Will "move immediately to cancel unspent 'stimulus' funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending 'stimulus' funds."


Updates

Stimulus payments have chugged on

Many congressional Republicans have fiercely opposed President Barack Obama's stimulus law, but their efforts to stop it haven't been very successful.

During the 2010 midterm campaign, the House Republicans promised to "move immediately to cancel unspent 'stimulus' funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending 'stimulus' funds."

As we noted in our previous update, language to fulfill the promise was inserted in H.R. 1, the "Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.” Specifically, a provision in the bill says, "There are hereby rescinded all unobligated balances remaining available as of February 11, 2011, of the discretionary appropriations provided by division A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 21 of 2009.”

On Feb. 19, 2011, H.R. 1 cleared the House on a largely party line vote, 235-189. But it was never implemented, as the House, the Senate and the president agreed to a series of short-term "continuing resolutions” to keep the government going, rather than approving a more sweeping and longer-term spending bill. The provision on unspent stimulus funds was not included in the continuing resolutions.

Meanwhile, spending on the stimulus has continued. To cite just one example, the Government Accountability Office found that thousands of employees were employed in stimulus-funded Energy Department environmental cleanups during the period the Republicans controlled the Senate, including at least 1,500 as late as the second quarter of fiscal year 2012. (This web page at the federal stimulus data resource site recovery.gov shows total spending from the stimulus law as of June 2012, but it does not specify whether the money was spent before the GOP took over the House or after.)

To add insult to injury, President Barack Obama has directly flouted the part of the GOP promise to "block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending 'stimulus' funds.”

On Nov. 17, 2012, Obama signed an order to waive the required repayment in $11.5 million in unused stimulus funds because it would "not be in the best interest of the nation.”

Specifically, the money was intended to fund inspectors general of several agencies distributing Recovery Act awards -- Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Treasury, the National Science Foundation, and the Small Business Administration. When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed, it required that any stimulus funds not used by Dec. 31, 2012, had to be returned to the treasury unless the president signed a waiver.

In his waiver, Obama wrote that "the requesting inspectors general are tasked with overseeing investigations that can take multiple years to complete, and the oversight work often begins in earnest during the final phases of a project.”

And Obama went further in January 2013, when he declined to rescind $363 million in unspent stimulus funds for several departments, according to the legal newswire courthousenews.com. The funds include $104 million for military construction; $96 million for the Energy Department's Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program; $148 million for the Social Security Administration; and $15 million for the Small Business Administration's Surety Bond Guarantees Revolving Fund.

We rate this a Promise Broken.

Sources:

recovery.gov, "Recovery Funding Status Report as of June 2012," accessed Jan. 8, 2013

recovery.gov, "White House Grants IG Request to Keep Unused Recovery Funds," Dec. 17, 2012

recovery.gov, "Recipient and Agency Data,” accessed Jan. 8, 2013

courthousenews.com, "Obama Won't Take Back $363 Million,” Jan. 7, 2013

Government Accountability Office, "Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened," October 2012

Office of John Boehner, "Keeping the Pledge to America: How Republicans Have Fought to Create Jobs, Cut Spending, & Change the Way Congress Does Business,” accessed Jan. 7, 2013

Provision passed the House, but is tied up in spending negotiations

During the 2010 campaign, House Republican leaders promised to "move immediately to cancel unspent 'stimulus' funds and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending 'stimulus' funds."

This promise has not been kept yet, but the GOP majority has made progress toward enacting it.

Language to fulfill the promise was inserted in H.R. 1, the "Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.” Specifically, a provision in the bill says, "There are hereby rescinded all unobligated balances remaining available as of February 11, 2011, of the discretionary appropriations provided by division A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 21 of 2009.”

On Feb. 19, 2011, H.R. 1 cleared the House on a largely party line vote, 235-189. Since passage, H.R. 1 has been up in the air, as the House, the Senate and the president have agreed to a series of short-term "continuing resolutions” to keep the government going, rather than approving a more sweeping and longer-term spending bill. The provision on unspent stimulus funds was not included in the continuing resolutions.

Lawmakers will continue to work on a longer term spending bill, under the threat of a government shutdown if legislation is not enacted. That will keep this promise in limbo for an undetermined period of time. But the fact that language to fulfill the promise has already passed the House earns it an In the Works.

Sources:

Text of H.R. 1, the "Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.”

E-mail interview with Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, Mar. 25, 2011