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Congress is Spending Hundreds of Billions on Zombie Programs, According to CBO


08.31.22

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government continues to spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars annually on more than a thousand government-run programs that Congress has failed to reauthorize, according to a reportreleased today from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). So far, Congress has failed to reauthorize 1,118 appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2022, while spending $461 billion this year on programs that have expired authorizations.  

“This report again confirms that expired government agencies are on autopilot and operating without proper oversight. Congress must reclaim its authorizing authority and bring accountability to the federal bureaucracy that has become disconnected from its mission to serve ‘We the People,’” said House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05). “To ensure every penny of taxpayer money is subject to robust scrutiny, I’m proud to lead on solutions like the Unauthorized Spending Accountability Act. Congressional committees in the House and Senate need to do their jobs to review and reauthorize expired government programs. If Republicans lead the House in the next Congress, that will be a priority on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over nearly every part of our economy. We will do the hard work of restoring accountability and ensuring federal agencies under our jurisdiction are authorized and accountable to the needs of the American people.” 

“This report confirms Congress has lived down to expectations and continues to fail its most basic responsibility to authorize the very programs it is spending money on,” said House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (MO-08). “In some cases, it has been decades since Congress put many of these programs through a formal process of review or up to a vote – meaning the American people have had little to no input into how these programs are functioning or whether they are meeting expectations. This legislative laziness pulls power out of the hands of the American people and gives unelected bureaucrats in the Executive Branch greater opportunity to spend taxpayer money however they want. Congress must reclaim the full power of the purse and actually do the job it was elected to perform. Spending hundreds of billions each year without so much as a second glance guarantees taxpayer dollars will be wasted on ineffective programs that are not being properly calibrated to the needs of the American people. During the 117th Congress, instead of finding ways to pare back or improve programs to protect taxpayers and better how their government functions, Democrats in control of Washington have instead spent their time focused on trying to create hundreds of new government programs by spending trillions to expand the size and scope of government, which has now landed us squarely in an economic recession.” 

Key Points from CBO Report on Expired Authorizations of Appropriations 

  1. This year’s report shows that appropriations for expired authorizations have increased $26 billion since fiscal year 2021 
  2. 111 authorizations of appropriations are set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2022, in exactly one month. 99 of those authorizations are for specific amounts totaling $807 billion 
  3. $203 billion in appropriations for expired authorizations in fiscal year 2022 are for programs that expired more than ten years ago

Read the CBO report here.

Press Release