WASHINGTON -- President Trump has found a rarely used legislative tool, one that hasn't been employed in nearly 20 years, to cut $15.4 billion in wasteful, needless federal spending.
It is Title X of the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act that gives Trump the power to propose rescinding unnecessary spending enacted by Congress.
Administration officials say it is only the beginning of many more White House budget-cutting requests to come.
With the national debt soaring to more than $21 trillion, and the federal budget deficit threatening to approach $1 trillion next year, the president sent the $15 billion-plus rescission package to Capitol Hill earlier this month.
White House officials said Trump's action represents the "largest rescission package ever proposed by a president" asking Congress to pull back funding from previous, unused budget appropriations.
The rescissions included $148 million in Agriculture Department funds for "animal and plant disease outbreaks that have already been resolved," according to The Wall Street Journal.
"It would save $252 million at the U.S. Agency for International Development that was appropriated in fiscal 2015 for the Ebola response, which has largely concluded," the newspaper reported.
Another rescission "would save $47 million at the Federal Transit Administration from an account that has stagnated for 13 years. Yet another would reclaim taxpayer dollars from a Railroad Retirement Board program that ended in 2012."
The largest savings is $7 billion in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which the administration supports, "in funds that are either no longer necessary or can't be spent because the authority to do so expired last year," the Journal said.
The rescission in the CHIP program, which provides medical care to kids in low-income families, "will have 'no programmatic impact,'" according to an official.
In terms of the enormity of the federal budget, these and other savings amount to only a tiny blip in the budget war. But the Trump administration is on to something very big and potentially game-changing here.
The 1974 Impoundment Control Act gives the president sweeping, unlimited power to propose rescinding spending by the Congress.
"Because such 'rescissions' require Congress to pass new legislation, the law allows the president to freeze these funds for 45 days," writes the Journal's budget analyst, Russ Vought.
Moreover, rescissions "can be approved with simple majorities in both houses, meaning the Senate can't block them with a filibuster."
Trump has urged the Office of Management and Budget
to search deeper into the bowels of the government for other wasteful, ineffective, outmoded spending programs that are ripe for the rescission axe.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is telling Republicans on Capitol Hill that his rescission list could have been as large as $25 billion, and that he's planning several more packages of spending cuts.
The Democrats, of course, are furious over Trump's latest budget-cutting maneuver. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer have been screaming bloody murder.
But Republicans in both chambers, especially tea party conservatives, have rallied behind Trump's budget deficit offensive.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, hoping to succeed House Speaker Paul Ryan, compares the rescissions to "giving the bloated federal budget a much-needed spring cleaning."
Conservative political activists around the country are also rallying behind Trump's counterpunches against the Republican big spenders.
"Big government GOP appropriators and moderates are holding up the president's rescissions plan because they are addicted to spending," said David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.
"Republican leadership needs to bring the proposal (HR 3) to the floor immediately and force the appropriators and moderates to make a decision. Are they with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats? Or are they with President Trump and the American people who want smaller government? It's their choice," McIntosh said. "It's long past time for the GOP to get its fiscal house in order, and President Trump's rescission plan provides the perfect mechanism to do exactly that. The time to act is now."
Poll after poll shows that the American people are very concerned that our country is being buried beneath a huge and mounting debt, endangering our economy, the future of our children and grandchildren, and the foundations on which our nation rests.