The Senate rejected an effort to $15 billion rescission bill on Wednesday with a 48-50 vote.
A group of Republican senators led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah called Tuesday for passage of the bill clawing back unspent funds that were identified by the White House earlier this year.
The House narrowly passed the rescission measure earlier this month on a 210-206 vote.
“This $15 billion is only a subset of the $21 trillion debt we’ve accumulated, but it’s a start,” Lee said at a Capitol Hill press conference. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”
In May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “If the House is able to pass the rescissions package, we’ll take a look at it.”
Lee was joined by six co-sponsors of the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act. The bill would formally rescind $14.7 billion in appropriated but unspent funds identified by the White House on May 8.
One rationale for the rescission is to help eliminate a “use it or lose it” mentality in federal agencies, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said at the press conference.
The rescissions include some funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and in a loan program for fuel-efficient vehicles. In an op-ed for The Daily Signal, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., noted that “The key point to know is this: The rescission would not cut spending on children’s health insurance or reduce coverage in any way. Let me repeat: Not a single child would lose care and not a single hospital or doctor would lose a dime.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted that at the beginning of the 21st century, it had taken 42 presidents to reach a national debt totaling $5 trillion. At the end of President George W. Bush’s two terms, the debt had reached $10 trillion. President Barack Obama’s two terms doubled that.
“Republicans and Democrats together quadrupled the debt in just 16 years,” Cruz said. “It is immoral. Enough is enough.”
The rescission is a small measure that the Senate should be able to take, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said.
“Everybody says they want to go to heaven, but nobody I’ve met wants to take the necessary step to make the trip,” Kennedy said. “It’s a lot like what we have with the budget. Everybody knows we spend too much, but nobody is ready to cut.”