Rand Paul Amendment Would Increase Executive Branch Power

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday proposed an amendment to legislation to give President Barack Obama fast-track trade authority that would shift budgetary power from Congress to the executive branch.

Senators didn’t vote on the amendment as they rushed to finish work on Trade Promotion Authority — the fast-track measure — before a holiday recess.

Paul’s “Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act” would have empowered federal agencies to identify “any potential surplus funds” and return them to the treasury. Employees who tip off agency inspectors general to the surpluses would be eligible for bonuses.

In order to create such a system, Paul’s amendment would give additional power to the executive branch by exempting the surplus funds from existing law that forbids the executive branch from seizing congressionally appropriated funds. The 1974 law was a response to attempts by then-President Richard Nixon to unilaterally cut congressionally appropriated spending.

A Republican Senate aide with close knowledge of the law, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Paul’s language exempting the funds from the 1974 law may have been an unnecessary precaution. A Democratic Senate aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed concerns that the amendment’s language may have allowed federal government administrators to defund key agency functions for ideological or political reasons.

Paul and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act separately earlier in the week.

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