Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) issued a press release today saying they have written a “Dear Colleague” letter to all Senators announcing their intention to withhold unanimous consent, or “hold,” bills that fail to meet the following criteria:
- All New Spending Must Be Offset with Cuts to Lower Priority Spending: Congress authorizes billions of dollars in new spending every year to create new or expand existing government programs. Yet, few bills are passed to eliminate outdated, duplicative, unnecessary, inefficient, wasteful, or low priority programs. To make government more efficient, any legislation authorizing new spending or creating a new agency, office, program, activity, or benefit or increasing the authorization of an existing function must offset the cost of this expansion by eliminating an existing program or function or reducing the authorized funding level of ongoing spending.
- Government Programs Must Be Periodically Reviewed and Renewed: Never ending government programs must end. Congress should periodically determine whether or not every government program is working as intended, is still needed, or is worthy of continued taxpayer support. To ensure this happens, any legislation establishing or continuing an agency, office, or program must also include a “sunset” date at which point Congress must decide whether or not to update or extend the life of the program.
- The Cost and Text of Bills Must Be Available Prior to Passage: Too many bills costing billions of dollars with far reaching implications are approved by the Senate with little debate, few if any amendments, and not even time to read the actual text of the legislation. To guarantee taxpayers and senators have sufficient time to read bills and information to understand their cost and impact, all legislation must be publicly available in an electronic format for at least three full days along with a cost estimate completed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prior to being passed.
- Duplicative Government Programs Must Be Consolidated or Eliminated: Despite the existence of hundreds of duplicative federal programs costing billions of dollars, Congress continues to create new programs with similar missions, goals, and purposes. To reduce redundancy, any bill creating a new program that replicates a current government mission must consolidate overlapping activities or eliminate the existing programs.
- Congress Must Not Infringe Upon the Constitutional Rights of the People: Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress a very limited set of enumerated powers. Far too often, Congress infringes upon the rights and liberties reserved for the people and the states provided elsewhere in the Constitution. These overreaches are no more than an afterthought when most bills are debated. To restore the intended balance of powers between the states and the federal government and to preserve the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, all bills must have a clear and obvious basis connected to one of the enumerated powers and must not infringe upon any of the rights guaranteed to the people.
Read the full letter here.