House Votes to Eliminate Automatic Spending Increases in Budget

By Fred Lucas | February 3, 2012 | 2:58pm EST

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said as a military veteran he found the demeaning of military commissions - especially for trying terror suspects - 'offensive.' ( Starr)

( – The House approved a potentially sweeping budget reform Friday that would force federal agencies to justify an annual increase, as opposed to getting an automatic increase under current budget law.

“What we are about to do could be the most responsible financial thing this Congress has done, this House has done in the whole last year,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said before the vote. “It could be $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years and all we’re doing is just stopping the automatic increase.”

The Baseline Reform Act of 2012 passed the House by a near party-line vote of 235-177. However, the bill will likely have a difficult time passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Under current federal budget law, the amount of money a federal agency will automatically get for the next year is based on the current year’s amount, plus inflation, which is the “baseline” for the next budget year.

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So the “baseline” establishes an assumption that discretionary spending will at least be as much as the previous year, with an inflation increase. Thus, in some cases, spending the same dollar amount on an agency or even increasing the agency’s funding has been called a cut in the budget. This budgeting method was adopted by Congress in 1974.

The legislation would eliminate the automatic increase. Budgeting would still be based on the current year’s budget, but it would not provide an automatic inflationary increase, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“Any impact on the budget would depend on the extent of future legislative actions by the Congress and the president,” said the CBO analysis of the bill, House Resolution 3578.

“If you need an increase, come justify it,” Gohmert said.

Gohmert has been pushing the issue since he came to Congress and said he was concerned about the matter even before coming to Congress.

“Back in the 1990s, when I was a judge, I heard a guy named Rush Limbaugh bring up why have this automatic increase?” Gohmert said. “Because then when conservatives try to slightly decrease the amount of increase, they’re said to be making draconian cuts.”

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