President Signs Measure to Eliminate Billions in Wasteful Spending Into Law

Washington, DC– Today, President Obama signed the bipartisan Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to curb waste, fraud and abuse in government spending, saving taxpayers up to $98 billion.

“Fiscal responsibility is as important as ever; American families have been tightening their belts and eliminating excess spending from their budgets, and the Federal government should do the same,” Rep. Schiff said. “Taxpayers expect their hard-earned dollars to be used in the most effective and efficient ways possible, not wasted on overpayments or careless accounting mistakes. The legislation signed into law by the President today is one of several bills aimed at rooting out waste and increasing efficiency by auditing government agencies, and assessing their progress in reaching their objectives.”

According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies made an estimated $98 billion in improper payments in FY2009. These improper payments may occur as a result of fraud or from poor financial management systems that do not detect or prevent mistakes before federal dollars are misspent.

The legislation on its way to the President’s desk will help identify, reduce and eliminate improper payments, and recover lost funds that federal agencies have improperly disbursed. Specifically, the bill contains provisions to require agencies to develop and report on action plans to avoid future wasteful spending. It will also lower the threshold for reporting improper payments, increase audits to hold agencies accountable, and make top agency managers responsible for reducing improper payments.

Rep. Schiff recently joined 58 of his colleagues in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), urging them to ensure that deficit reduction continues to be a top priority of Congress and the Administration, and to take meaningful steps to reduce spending and pay for our priorities now and in the future.

“Since my election to Congress, I have been a strong advocate of balancing our budget and paying down our national debt,” Rep. Schiff said.  “Failure to put in place budget enforcement mechanisms that restrain the growth in deficit spending will only make the problem worse in the future.”

Below is the full text of the letter to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer:

We can no longer put off addressing the nation’s fiscal crisis, which was created by years of mismanagement and has been exacerbated by the recent economic crisis. Failure to put in place and properly enforce budget enforcement mechanisms that cut and restrain the growth in federal spending will only make the tough, necessary decisions harder to achieve in the future.

Markets around the world, including ours, were shaken by the debt crisis in Europe. Many economists point to the U.S.’s high levels of debt and wonder if our country is heading towards a similar fate. While our economy is still recovering and more needs to be done to create jobs, it is critical that we balance these investments with offsets over the long run.

We recognize and understand the need for the emergency designation as narrowly defined in the statutory PAYGO law recently passed by the House and signed into law by President Obama. However, we have made a commitment to pay for our priorities. It is critical that we uphold our efforts to restore fiscal discipline to the federal government by not using this tool for anything other than it is intended – a true, unforeseen emergency.

Extending critical, economic investments is no more important than paying for them. America is facing a debt crisis that is threatening to undermine our economic and national security. We can no longer afford to exacerbate the problem because the decisions about how to pay for what we spend are getting harder.

We stand ready to work together with you to ensure that deficit reduction continues to be a top priority of Congress and the administration, and to take meaningful steps to reduce spending and pay for our priorities now and in the future.