Written testimony of Kevin R. Kosar, Vice President of Policy, R Street Institute Before the U.S. Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight October 30, 2019

There also is the subject of today’s hearing, unauthorized appropriations (UAs). This past March, the Congressional Budget Office reported that it had:

“identified 971 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2019 that had not been overtaken by subsequent legislation as of February 15, 2019. Those authorizations appeared in 257 laws and authorized a combined annual total of at least $158 billion for the last year they were in effect for various agencies, programs, or functions.”[3]

Congress appropriated $307 billion towards these expired authorizations’ purposes.

For certain, the rise in unauthorized appropriations is a symptom of the broken congressional budget process. But the rise of these “zombie appropriations” and “zombie programs,” as I termed them, is troubling in and of itself.[4]

For one, Congress is simply not following the plan it set out in the CBICA [Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974] : authorize, then appropriate. For another, the rise of zombie programs gives the appearance that Congress is abdicating some degree of its oversight duties. It creates programs, authorizes some level of spending for them for a time, and proceeds to disregard the authorizing statutes. Government watchdogs and the public would be forgiven for wondering whether Congress is really overseeing these programs or has abdicated its power of the purse.[5]