Cynthia Lummis

Representing Wyoming

Article 1, Clause 9, Section 7 of the United States Constitution reads, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriation made by Law.”

In the 112th Congress my colleagues in the House, at the suggestion of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), appointed me to serve on the Appropriations Committee.  This is the committee of Congress that sets the annual spending limits for most federal agencies.  There is a long and storied history behind how Congress decided to carry out the Constitutional directive in Article 1, Clause 9.  A concise version of that history can be found on the Committee’s website.  One interesting omission from that history is that for most of the life of the Appropriations Committee, members viewed themselves as the guardians of the Treasury.  They saw it as their duty to refrain from spending tax-dollars.  Unfortunately, in recent years and under both political parties, the Committee’s attitude changed to one of spending at every turn, and using earmarks to gain support for bills that might not otherwise have passed.

In suggesting that I serve on this Committee, Budget Committee Chairman Ryan was seeking someone who would work every day to change the culture of the Appropriations Committee back to one of guardians of the Treasury.  That has been my goal, and continues to be the focus of my efforts.

The spending allocated by this committee is called “discretionary” spending, because Congress has the discretion to spend it or save it.  Unfortunately, the lion’s share of federal spending is called “mandatory” because the amount of tax-dollars flowing out of the Treasury is set by others laws like social security, food stamps and others – it is auto-pilot spending.  A full 68% of all the tax dollars spent in 2012 will be auto-pilot spending on entitlement programs and interest on the debt.  It is the Appropriations committee that distributes the remaining 32%, which for 2012 is set at $1.043 trillion dollars.  For next year, the House has set a discretionary spending cap of $1.023 trillion dollars.  It is the work of the Appropriations Committee to divide that $1.023 to all government programs.  While I have a vote on each of the 12 spending bills, I am a member of three subcommittees on which I have a greater say of how tax dollars are allocated.

  • Subcommittee on Agriculture: 

    This subcommittee sets the budget for Department of Agriculture (except Forest Service), the Farm Credit Administration, the Farm Credit System Financial Assistance Corporation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration (HHS).  For FY13, this subcommittee has been allocated $19.4 billion dollars for these agencies.  That amount is the smallest allocated to any subset of agency spending outside the legislative branch.  This small amount is attributable to the very large amount of mandatory spending on agriculture programs, spending that includes food stamps and direct agriculture subsidies.  In general, the discretionary spending on agriculture programs hovers at about 16%, while auto-pilot spending is about 84%.

  • Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment:

    This subcommittee sets the budget for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.  It also sets the budget for several smaller programs like the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Smithsonian Institute.  You can view a full list of agencies and programs whose budget is set by this subcommittee here. For FY13, this subcommittee has been allocated $28 billion dollars to fund these agencies and programs.

  • Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education:

    This subcommittee sets the budget for the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and several other smaller agencies and programs which you can view here.  With the exception of the Department of Defense, this subcommittee has the largest spending allocation.  For FY13, this subcommittee will determine how over $150 billion dollars are spent.  This is on top of the billions of auto-pilot funding that will flow out under health and retirement entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.