U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., has introduced her first bill, a measure that would require lawmakers to vote on proposals aimed at cutting wasteful spending or raising revenue.
The specific measures would be advanced by a 15-member panel the bill would establish.
The freshman Democrat called it a “starting point” toward reducing the deficit.
Bustos’ proposal focuses on two lengthy Government Accountability Office reports that identified dozens of areas where government programs overlap or are fragmented — or where costs could be reduced and revenue raised. Bustos frequently cited the reports while running for office last year.
Government waste is a favorite foil for lawmakers. But Bustos said, “We’ve had a track record of just letting those proposals sit on the shelf, gathering dust not doing anything. I just see that as meaningless. We’re not going to save anything unless we implement these proposals.”
Bustos said hers is the only proposal she’s aware of that seeks to implement potential savings identified in the GAO reports.
The plan would have Congress and the executive branch appoint board members with experience in government and reducing waste. They would be paid. The group would report its recommendations to Congress, which then would have to vote up or down on them. No amendments would be allowed.
The measure does take some spending off the table. It would prohibit recommendations that reduce benefits for members of the military, veterans or seniors or that cut guaranteed Medicare or Medicaid health insurance benefits.
Deficit hawks have argued that costs need to be reduced in large health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid if meaningful deficit reduction is to occur. However, there are different approaches. The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission recommended cutting future benefits, as well as reducing provider payments. The GAO reports laid out a series of ways to reduce improper payments in the programs, which it said were estimated at $50 billion for Medicare and $22 billion for Medicaid in 2010.
Some health care providers, however, have warned that payment cuts could result in less access to care. A spokesman for Bustos’ office said she thinks savings can be achieved without having an impact on benefits resulting from legitimate claims.