Impoundment Control Act: Use and Impact of Rescission Procedures

T-OGC-99-56: Jul 30, 1999

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its role in the congressional rescission process and provided some perspective on the use and impact of rescissions.

GAO noted that: (1) the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) was enacted to tighten congressional control over Presidential impoundments and establish a procedure under which Congress could consider the merits of impoundments proposed by the President; (2) under the ICA, the President may propose a rescission when he wishes to withhold funds from obligation permanently or submit a deferral when the withholding of funds is temporary; (3) funds proposed for rescission may be withheld from obligation for 45 days of continuous congressional session; (4) if Congress does not approve the rescission during this period, the President must release the funds on the forty-sixth day; (5) the ICA also provides a special discharge procedure permitting 20 percent of the members of either house to force a floor vote on any presidential rescission proposal; (6) rescissions under the ICA have not historically served as a significant spending reduction tool; (7) since enactment of the ICA in 1974, Presidents have proposed 1,172 rescissions totalling $75.8 billion dollars; (8) Congress has accepted 459 of those proposals, totalling $24.9 billion; (9) during this period, Congress has initiated $104.8 billion in rescissions to revise spending decisions; (10) the President is required to send a copy of the special message proposing rescissions or deferrals to the Comptroller General on the same day it is sent to Congress; (11) the Comptroller General is required to review each special message and report his findings to Congress as soon as practicable; (12) the ICA requires the Comptroller General to report to Congress any impoundment which the President has failed to report; (13) after the President submits an impoundment message to Congress, GAO is responsible for monitoring the status of affected funds; and (14) GAO provides statistical summaries and analyses on the impoundment process.