Politics & Government

Koch group presses Republicans and Democrats to trim unspent dollars

A powerful conservative group is pressing senators this week to back President Donald Trump’s effort to eliminate an unspent $15 billion in federal spending that Congress has already approved.

The Koch Brothers-aligned Americans for Prosperity is running digital ads urging reluctant Republicans and some vulnerable Democrats to back the “rescission package,” which cleared the House two weeks ago but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The White House estimated the package would save $15 billion over 10 years, but an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put the number at closer to $1 billion because much of the money has remained unspent by the agencies for years.

Still, Bill Riggs, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, called the package a “modest show of good faith to taxpayers who deserve more than the lip service they hear from both parties on fiscal responsibility.

“Washington is set to spend $4 trillion this fiscal year,” Riggs said. “Rescission represents a cut of about half a cent on the dollar in terms of overall spending and we urge every Senator to support it.”

The measure only needs a simple majority to pass, but some Republicans have expressed doubts. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been among the bill’s skeptics, telling reporters the package may be “more optics than substance.”

On Monday, The Senate advanced a bill reopening federal agencies through Feb. 8 after Democrats relented and lifted their blockade against the legislation. The shutdown began Saturday after Democrats derailed a Republican measure that would have k

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who last year pushed legislation that included Trump’s effort, said it would cut funding, including some that has “sat around unspent for years.”

Democrats have ridiculed the idea, noting that it comes on the heels of Republicans approving a $1.5 trillion tax break that is expected to increase the already-big federal deficit. Democrats also charge the legislation could hurt areas including children’s health care and biomedical research.

Those targeted by the ads include Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Dean Heller, R-Nevada; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota; Marco Rubio, R-Florida; John Thune, R-South Dakota; Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi and Shelby.

Also on the ads’ list are Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania;, Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana; Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico; Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; Doug Jones, D-Alabama; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; Bill Nelson, D-Florida; Tina Smith, D-Minnesota and Jon Tester, D-Montana.

Americans for Prosperity also launched a push ahead of the House vote, including digital, direct-mail, print, and radio advertising in congressional districts.

The House voted 210 to 206 two weeks ago to pass the measure, which was championed in the House by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a leading candidate to be the next House speaker.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark