The federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30, and, as usual, there are a number of controversial issues related to federal spending. The following chart summarizes how the federal government spent your money during the last fiscal year.
Here is another look at the different categories of spending over time.
As you can see, a large majority of federal spending – about two-thirds – is spent in mandatory programs, also known as entitlements and interest on our national debt. About one-third of spending is spent on those programs that Congress must vote on each year, known as discretionary spending, and about one-half of discretionary spending (16-17 percent of total federal spending) funds our military.
Discretionary spending funds most of the operations of government, which is the reason that when those programs are not renewed, it is called a “government shutdown.” Government offices and national parks are closed, while salaries of federal employees, including the salaries of our service members, are not paid during a shutdown.
Meanwhile, the two-thirds of spending in mandatory programs are unaffected even if there is no funding for government operations. Social Security checks will continue to be sent, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are paid, and food stamps are still distributed.
I believe that it is essential to continue government funding, especially of our military, and avoid a shutdown. We simply cannot ask men and women to risk their lives on behalf of our nation all around the world while they wonder whether they will get their paychecks and be able to pay their bills. The world is too dangerous, and we owe them better than that.
Planned Parenthood funding
As you know, the recent release of videos involving employees of Planned Parenthood casually discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies has been shocking for many people, including me, regardless of their views on abortion. Planned Parenthood does receive taxpayer funding. The vast majority of that funding, around 75 percent, is through the Medicaid program, which as an entitlement is not affected by a government shutdown or the failure to approve discretionary spending bills.
I supported and the House has passed a bill to end all taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, including all Medicaid funding, and to redirect that money to other women’s health organizations that are not involved in abortion. Because of Democratic opposition, the Senate has not been able to get the 60 votes necessary to even vote on the House-passed bill.
This week the House will begin to use a special procedure known as reconciliation under which a bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate. In other words, under reconciliation, certain bills can pass the Senate with a majority of 51 votes rather than the 60 votes normally required to overcome a filibuster. This reconciliation bill will end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and also dismantle key provisions of Obamacare. With a majority vote in the House and the Senate, that legislation can be sent to the President.
In addition, some states have taken action. Medicaid is a program that is funded by both the federal government and the individual states, and some states have prohibited Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid funding. Texas is one of those states.
Other funding issues
Other funding issues must be addressed in the next few weeks. For example, highway funding expires at the end of October and must be renewed in order for construction and repair of highways and bridges to continue. At some point soon, the federal government will reach the debt limit, which means it can borrow no more money even to pay the interest on debt it has already incurred.
Finally, the following chart provides an update on the federal deficit.
Despite the serious differences between President Obama and Republicans in Congress on spending and tax issues, you can see that the federal deficit has been shrinking since Republicans became the majority party in the House in 2011. But for this progress to continue, we must address the two-thirds of the federal spending that is in the mandatory programs.
I invite you to learn more about this issue and others by visiting my website here. Have a question you would like answered? Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.