BBA 2019 (Contents)
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019
TITLE V—Budgetary Effects
Section 501. Budgetary Effects.
(a) In General.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard maintained pursuant to section 4(d) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (2 U.S.C. 933(d)).
(b) Senate Paygo Scorecards.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on any PAYGO scorecard maintained for purposes of section 4106 of H. Con. Res. 71 (115th Congress).
Shielding the Paygo Scorecards from the budgetary effects of legislation has become routine. It is easy to get around an enforcement procedure when it has become acceptable to pretend it does not exist. The same is done for the Paygo Ledger, which is the Senate equivalent, though it is done for enforcing points of order. The BBA 2019, though, is a hybrid bill insofar as it increases discretionary spending in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and decreases in direct spending in the far outyears, fiscal years 2027 through 2029. This means that all the budgetary effects to be placed on either of these enforcement mechanisms would be deceptively positive since they only apply to the latter form of spending. In this regard, this text is a necessary addition so as to not distort the way the pay-as-you-go concept is intended to work.
The only problem, really, is that it has become so commonplace when this same language is used for pernicious reasons, that is to shield the scorecards from increases in direct spending (or decreases in revenue), that very little surprise greets its inclusion in legislation as it makes its way through the Congress.
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013
The BBA 2013 included section 117, which is substantively the same as the BBA 2019. The section includes two technical differences:
(1) It turns off section 1(c) (BBA 2013), which provided that references to “the Act” would indicate the division of the bill in which they occur. Since the reference in this section was to apply to the Act as a whole, it was necessary to deactivate the directive in that subsection.
(2) Section 117(b) (BBA 2013) keeps the budgetary effects from the Senate’s Paygo Point of Order Scorecard, but the reference is to section 201 of S. Con. Res. 21 (110th Congress), which was replaced by section 4106 of H. Con. Res. 71 (115th Congress). As a continuing body, the Senate’s budget resolutions often contain budget procedures that remain in effect after the end of the Congress to which they initially apply.
Another difference, though not even technical since sideheadings are stylistic not even technical, though as in many things, can be indicative. The BBA 2013 included a more descriptive heading as to what the section does: Sec. 117. Exclusion of savings from PAYGO scorecards.
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015
The BBA 2015 did not include a corresponding section. The Act did not include language preventing the budgetary effects from being added to the Pay-As-You-Go Scorecard. This was unnecessary since the effect on direct spending was a net decrease. These decreases were ostensibly to offset the increases in discretionary spending allowed by the raising of the spending limits. The law did decrease such spending, though the effects were spread over ten-years while the increase in discretionary spending spanned two years. Enforcement in the Congressional budget process usually does not allow mixing discretionary spending with direct spending (though things like “Chimps”, which are annual direct spending offsets in appropriations measures, occur all the time), but it was done here in order to smooth the passage of the legislation.
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018
The BBA 2018 included section 70101, which has the same purpose as section 501 (BBA 2019). The former differs in its references as to its application because it was included in an omnibus appropriations act, passed by Congress as H.R. 1892(115th Congress). It also differs in its breadth insofar as it also assures that the direct spending items are not taken into account for the discretionary spending limits, and hence keeps the discretionary spending effects and the direct spending effects separate for purposes of budget enforcement.
As an interesting aside, section 70101(c), in order to prevent direct spending effects from being applied to the discretionary spending limits, specifies that “Rule 3” of the Scorekeeping Rules should be ignored. That rule requires spending included in an appropriations law be scored against the Appropriations Committee’s allocations, and by extension against the discretionary spending limits. While the reference does not harm anything, it is unnecessary and found its way into an appropriation bill at the end of the 114th Congress at the insistence of the House Appropriations Committee rather than the House Budget Committee. It does no harm, but referring to Scorekeeping Rules as a general matter is not appropriate drafting style and the other provisions of the section clearly mandate the same result without the Rule 3 reference. It is of note because it has been repeated since that time as if it is necessary, and is an example of budgetary clutter that takes on a seeming importance through inertia.
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, Pub. L. 116-37; 133 Stat. 1049; August 2, 2019; H.R. 3877 (116th Congress)[Page View]