When it comes to cost-saving amendments, Rep. Paul Broun can't be beat, even if he rarely wins.
The Georgia Republican has offered more amendments to appropriations bills that have passed this year than any other House Member, in an effort to prove money can be saved at every turn.
Broun proposed a dozen changes to the three spending bills considered and approved by the House this month. Eleven of those amendments — all of which were rejected — applied to the Agriculture appropriations bill and would have cut the department's budget by a total of $2 billion.
A Broun aide said he told his staff last week that the spending bills were like a speeding train heading for a cliff; he thought he could at least slow down that train.
"He went into this appropriations bill with a goal of cutting at least $2 billion," Broun spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti said. "Even that's just a drop in the bucket."
Under the Republican-established rules for this year's appropriations bills, Members can offer any change without prior announcement. Often, even the majority staff does not see the language until seconds before the amendments are read on the floor.
Democrats have historically been more restrictive when it comes to offering amendments for appropriations bills, so budget hawks like Broun simply did not have the opportunity to show off their penny-pinching acumen in the past two legislative sessions.
Republicans offered nearly two-thirds of the more than 160 proposed amendments for the three bills, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) offered 10 amendments, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) came in third, behind Broun, offering eight amendments.
Broun's amendments stand out not only because of the sheer number but also because of the strategy of attempting to chip away at the bills' bottom-line numbers in a piecemeal fashion. Republican amendments — like those King offered — have historically placed conditions and prohibitions on how funds can be used. Lawmakers from both parties typically attempt to hack larger amounts from the total appropriation or to shift money from one account to another.
Six of the amendments Broun proposed to the Agriculture bill attempted to cut less than $100 million from various programs. For instance, one Broun amendment would have cut $21 million from the operation and maintenance of Agriculture Department buildings. Another proposal would have entirely scrapped a $180 million international child nutrition program and four others made 10 percent cuts to programs like the Agriculture Marketing Service and the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program. Broun also offered an amendment to reduce by half the number of passenger motor vehicles the Agriculture Department could purchase next year.
Broun's staff went through the bill provision by provision to identify spots where they could make incremental cuts without offending constituents, Griffanti said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.