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Budget Battle Proves Trump Right on Impoundment Power

Posted on Wednesday, September 6, 2023
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by Ben Solis
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AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One addressing his impoundment power

As Congress returns from August recess, Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate are gearing up to continue blowing out the budget by passing a Continuing Resolution. With GOP leadership punting once again on delivering on its promises to rein in out-of-control spending, the need for the restoration of the president’s Impoundment Power – which Donald Trump has promised to push if he is re-elected – is clearer than ever.

With less than a month until the end of the Fiscal Year on September 30, Congress has made virtually no progress on a full budget to fund the government. That means that, barring a successful effort by the conservative House Freedom Caucus to force changes, spending will continue for all government programs at current levels until at least mid-November – when Congress will likely face another impasse.

In other words, despite Republicans winning back control of the House of Representatives last year, money for all of Democrats’ left-wing spending priorities will continue pouring in until near the end of the year at a minimum.

After Republican candidates promised to put a stop to exactly this type of spending during campaign season last year, many conservatives likely now find themselves asking what other methods are available to stop their tax dollars from funding the left’s political agenda.

Trump, who continues to hold a dominant lead in the 2024 GOP primary, offered one possible answer earlier this summer – bringing back the Impoundment Power.

In short, the Impoundment Power, which was used by presidents at least as far back as Thomas Jefferson, who refused to use appropriated funds to buy unnecessary gunboats, allows the president to spend less than Congress allocates on certain projects if he deems the full funding amount unnecessary.

In 1974, Congress passed the Impoundment Control Act, greatly constraining the president’s Impoundment Power.

In a June video, Trump pledged to “do everything I can to challenge the Impoundment Control Act in court, and if necessary, get Congress to overturn it.”

Restoring the Impoundment Power “is the only way we will ever return to a balanced budget,” Trump said. “Bringing back impoundment will give us a crucial tool with which to obliterate the Deep State, Drain the Swamp, and starve the Warmongers.”

As Trump suggested, the president’s Impoundment Power has a long record of use throughout American history. Following the Civil War, with Congress fragmented as the country healed from four years of bloody conflict, several presidents used the Impoundment Power to guard the nation’s purse from ill-formed spending plans.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the avalanche of spending related to the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, and major infrastructure projects created huge budget deficits which Congress tried to solve through the Antideficiency Act of 1905 and the Accounting Act of 1921. In both cases, Congress acknowledged that certain conditions might arise which would necessitate the exercise of the presidential Impoundment Power. Congressman John F. Fitzgerald, who worked on both bills, wrote in a 1919 article discussing the merits of Impoundment that “to uphold the priority of the expenditure and address the emergency, the will of the president shall be supreme.”

After the Wall Street crash in 1929, President Hoover acted upon this authority, cutting government bureaucracy by 30 percent, reducing compensation for public employees by 10 percent, and consolidating 58 government agencies.

Invoking the same powers in 1941, his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, reduced all economic and social spending funding to only “programs having important defense value.”

After World War II, American presidents, both Republican and Democrat, used the Impoundment Power extensively to restrict funding for programs that included certain Air Force projects, flood control initiatives, highways, railroads, missile defense, and land conservation. President Truman impounded $735 million in defense expenditures, explaining to Congress that he intended to defend the nation without imposing a significant burden on the American people. Among the canceled programs was the giant aircraft carrier USS United States.

Perhaps the greatest champion of the Impoundment Power was President Eisenhower, a former Chief of Staff of the Army and the first Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Former Secretary of the Air Force Thomas C. Reed told this author that President Eisenhower understood that “U.S. economic power was decisive for victory in World War II,” and understood which defense projects were a waste.

In one instance Reed shared, Eisenhower impounded funds for the development of a 300-ton nuclear-powered bomber that Air Force leaders compared to an airborne submarine. “President Eisenhower knew that its failures outweighed potential benefits,” Reed explained.

Instead, Eisenhower returned funds to Congress, saying that American economic growth via tax cuts and reduced spending was the best national security policy.

In the 1960s, President Johnson impounded funds for several programs as inflation began to creep upward, arguing that changing conditions had necessitated a change in spending. Johnson ordered agencies to save $1.5 billion and demanded Congress cut spending by $3 billion. Like Trump has promised to do, Johnson used Impoundment as an anti-inflationary measure.

Although there was vigorous political debate over the wisdom of all of these moves, it was generally accepted that the president had the power to allocate funds as he saw fit.

Caspar Weinberger, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Nixon and Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, once compared the Impoundment Power to handling large flows of water through hundreds of pipes connected to one tank. The tank represented all appropriated funds, while the pipes represented various federal projects. “With the Impoundment Power, the president can close or open these pipes according to what conditions exist,” he said.

But in 1974, with the passage of the Impoundment Control Act, this important presidential authority was stripped away. The result has been ever-increasing budgets and deficits with no way to check Congress’s excesses. This dynamic is on full display now as the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate move to continue spending exorbitant sums despite partisan divisions.

Weinberger once told this author unequivocally before he passed away in 2006, “Someone should restore this powerful instrument [Impoundment] based on the interpretation that originated with Jefferson.” He further pointed to the erosion of the president’s authority to execute the laws in accordance with the Constitution following passage of the Impoundment Control Act.

If inflation creeps back up and the economy continues to struggle heading into 2024, government spending could become a major issue. By clearly outlining how he would use Impoundment to address the problem, Trump is positioned better than any other candidate to show leadership on the issue.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

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Moses
Moses
8 months ago

It is no surprise to me that President Trump new of this and wanted to restore it. He is one of few presidents that didn’t try to fatten his wallet while in office, and that is why he is so hated by Washington politicians. God Bless President Trump.

Thinking
Thinking
8 months ago

This should be reinstated to which it first was intended. 32 trillion in debt and rising every second 24/7, we need this. Maybe we can become a solvent country again and where our tax money is spend in country instead of overseas. Improve our Health Care, homelessness and treatment for our kids strung out on Fentanyl and dying by the thousands. Instead of putting billions into the COVID flu vaccine. That only benefits big Pharma.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
8 months ago

Yes bring law back & expand use

PaulE
PaulE
8 months ago

What we’re seeing in Washington is a continuation of a very old game being played over and over again. It would be nice if the public actually wised up at some point, but that may be too much to ask for. The Congressional Democrats refuse to negotiate on the budget for several months before the budget deadline. Rather than making daily speeches on TV about how the Democrats are intentionally obstructing the process, the Republicans either trot out the same old talking points about a need for fiscal restraint or they say nothing for months on end. Either way, we’ve seen the show play out dozens of times in the past. At the last minute the Democrats throw out either continuing resolution, that keeps spending levels exactly as they are plus the usual 7 percent bump for so-called annual inflation, or the Congressional Republicans simply cave to what ludicrous budget the Democrats offer up. All because the Republicans can’t or won’t articulate a coherent message to the American people that we’re simply destroying our country by repeatedly caving to the insane spending levels of the so-called “Progressives”.

At the end of fiscal 2023, out annual deficit will have doubled to $2 trillion dollars. Yes, we blew right through $1 trillion dollars in annual deficit spending and now in the $2 trillion dollar a year club. Our dollar is becoming worthless faster than the United States Treasury can print more worthless paper or the Federal Reserve can buy up that more worthless debt. Is it really any wonder why fewer and fewer foreign nations want to buy our worthless bonds to finance this house of cards and wild spending spree? It shouldn’t be. Only fools would throw more money after bad in the hopes this pattern will change with the current administration in power and an inept and corrupt Congress. Most of the rest of the world sees quite clearly the path we’re on and they are walking away in droves.

Yes, Trump has been right on a lot of things. Yet half the country continues to focus on “Orange man bad”, while the senile, old puppet in the White House and his team of merry puppeteers continue to trash the country as fast as they can.

Gloria
Gloria
8 months ago

GET RID OF MCCARTHY.. He is a Uniparty RINO. He signed a deal with Getz – yea, Big Deal. Big liar. Big traitor. VACTATE the chair! We citizens, whom he is robbing, are tired of it.

Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
8 months ago

If the Republicans do not hold the line on the budget to accomplish the points raised in this article; I no longer can vote in good conscience for the GOP. Controlling the purse is the only real power our conservative Congressmen have, and they must exercise it. 
Congress is supposed to write the laws, not independent agencies nor Presidential Executive Orders. Independent agencies are the deep state and rules and regulations written by them deny voters representation. Example the policy setting CAFE standards for cars and pushing all electric cars by 2032 was written by a Biden appointee who has not been confirmed by the Senate. Why haven’t Republicans pounced on this? Going all electric in America’s best interest and many Americans cannot afford electric cars! 
Republicans were going to defund the 87K new IRS agents. Did they? All the independent agencies that have gone off the reservation should be defunded!
The GOP House has done a good job of illuminating Joe Biden’s corruption and treasons, but he is still President. They have done a good job of identifying the problems at the border and the corruption of the Justice Department and intelligence community and attempts to muzzle our freedom of speech. But the border is still Wide open, and the enemies of freedom are not punished! 
I receive so many requests for money from Republican candidates and conservative organizations. If I sent each one a dollar there would be nothing left of the SSN check, I live on. 
I have counted the Bill of Rights as the only true wealth I have enjoyed in my long lifetime. But these freedoms are not supposed to require me to pay to preserve the Bill of Rights. They are my rights!

Maine
Maine
8 months ago

Parties need to be dumped. Run on who you are, history, character, morals, etc. Keep them at home with citizens in contact. Sell the Capitol and move the remaining agencies (cut some for sure) around the country into some regional scheme. Term limits, same benefits as all Americans, no money deals, salary, and insurance/perks like everyone else. Work or not paid, the government is crooked, the Government is people, and we are victims.
TO CONGRESS. BALANCE THE GD BUDGET AS THE CONSTITUTION DEMANDS; YOU AND YOU ALONE ARE LIABLE. STOP BEING GULESS REPUBLICANS; THIS MUST END [MUST END]. AND A MASSIVE LAWSUIT HOLDING YOU ACCOUNTABLE IS COMING.

David Millikan
David Millikan
8 months ago

Inflation is still rising with everything else. We have been in a recession since biden’s first quarter report. As things continue in the wrong direction we will suffer more until President Trump is back in the White House.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
8 months ago

We need to clean house in Washington set term limits and age limits to serve. We need an honest government they hate Trump because he showed the people what kind of corruption is going on. Look what we have now nothing but hate and mistrust in this country time for the people here to take back our government and go back to what this country was based on honest people in Washington not what we have now if we go back to honest government then are debt will go down not up.We need change.

Myrna
Myrna
8 months ago

Presidential impoundment is one way to balance needs and spending. Another is to pass an individual budget for each discretionary of government (12). Significant reductions in federal employees (personal services) will make the most difference. Batch layoffs of civil service jobs is the most promising solution heard yet. No single person is fired. The whole department or division is eliminated.

HocasPocas
HocasPocas
8 months ago

Trump is a very intelligent businessman

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
8 months ago

It amuses me how these same ppl who shutdown the economy and closed schools for over a year are suddenly worried about a “shutdown” when the only ones who don’t get paid are the same ppl in Congress! They didn’t GAS about hairdressers, barbers, restaurant workers, etc. then… unless like Nancy they needed one or Gavin was holding a fundraiser.

Sharon Prelich
Sharon Prelich
8 months ago

This author has masterfully explained and provided chronologically, times throughout history, where presidents, have harnessed the overspending of Congress by taking control of the purse and cutting spending to stabilize the economy. Trump can use this tool very effectively to remove wasteful spending and balance the budget. There is no doubt in my mind that Donald J Trump can truly make America great again! God bless President Trump, and God bless America!!!

Ken Hagerty
Ken Hagerty
8 months ago

This is an extremely positive article. But The Budget Control Act that Nixon signed, had another huge, hidden part that stopped “zero-based-budgeting”. From that moment on, every single budget provision in future appropriations was and is based on the previous year’s ask, whether that increase is justified or not. That hidden provision created an enormous ratchet that moves up the entire Federal budget every year. Impoundment reform is badly needed. But to do what it intends, it MUST INCLUDE a provision that restores zero-based-budgeting. I am confident that President Trump would support this common sense reform.

Elizabeth S Misa
Elizabeth S Misa
8 months ago

We have a uniparty in the house. We now have control of the house with NOBODY actually willing to do anything! The republicans talk and talk, and NOTHING is accomplished! It is all theater. Just watch, they will go ahead with anything the democrats want in the budget. The American people are sick and tired of them just going along to get along. We have no leadership for us the American people! All of the Rinos and others who have been in office for far too long need to be voted out of office. Speak with your representatives in your state and try to get some action.

barney
barney
8 months ago

So once again the Republicans are doing nothing but rubber stamping Democrat spending while claiming to be against it. Am I the only one who sees that the Republicans joined with the Democrats and have formed the DEMOREP party. We have one party nowthat gives us lip service and tells us what we want to hear, take our money and do what they want to do. Time for a third, fourth, and even fifth party like the founding fathers wanted. They warned us about having a 2 party system which always turns into a ONE party system.

Nostrich
Nostrich
8 months ago

Well, Congress won’t vote anything down that would dilute the power they wield. No hope there. The voters need to figure out the why, and stop voting for the name they recognize. Look the candidates up on more than one site, don’t rely on the campaign messages sent out two weeks prior to the election, and try to vote for the person you believe will uphold your values. And maybe vote some younger, newer voices into office. I am an old person, and I can’t stand seeing so many geriatric geezers in group photos of Congress and the administration. Get some new blood in there, people.

Mario Capparuccini
Mario Capparuccini
8 months ago

Then why did Trump not seek this power when he was President and had control of Congress? The last President who gave us a balanced budget was Bill Clinton. George W. and Obama gave us record deficits until the present abomination dwarfed them. The simple fact is this. The American people want free things and they will vote for idiots who promise them free things until our economy collapses. I hope I am wrong but I do not think I am.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase
8 months ago

Certainly the time has come for an adult to enter the budget process. GOP has failed to control LEFT excesses. They will no doubt argue for both House and Senate in order to do their jobs. That has not always guaranteed success in the past. Deep State at work!

barney
barney
7 months ago

I’M still waiting for the republicans to do something and I don’t mean the meaningless Hunter Biden investigations. The Bidens are guilty I have not doubt, but will they be tried for these charges are another thing. The republicans talk a good line but then they fail time after time and vote along with the Democrats. The Democrats didn’t run up all this debt by themselves, they had help from the republicans. So Yes, I’ll wait to see if the republicans do anything.

Sue
Sue
8 months ago

Stop buying unappropriated stuff-junk. Quit lining the pockets of the politicians and their cronies-fat cats. the taxpayers’ hard earned monies should not be used indiscriminately by unreliable and irresponsible leaders–at least they claim they are leaders.

Bruce P
Bruce P
8 months ago

The Democrats were in charge in 1974 when the Impoundment power was taken away. Anybody here surprised?

kdesq
kdesq
8 months ago

Very disingenuous to mention LBJ as impounding money and wanting 3 billion saved since it was HE that started spending the SS trust fund money in the general fund to pay for his WAR in Vietnam and the HIS great society to use as a distraction.

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