At the beginning of the 112th Congress and again at the beginning of the 113th Congress, the House adopted a new standing order intended to assist Members seeking to use the amendment process to reduce discretionary spending in general appropriations bills. Prior to this standing order, if the House adopted an amendment to a general appropriations bill reducing the funds appropriated to a particular program, the amount of that reduction became “headroom” under the overall spending limit for the bill. The effect was to provide another Member with the ability to offer an amendment increasing spending later in the bill, making it nearly impossible to reduce the overall spending in a particular appropriations measure.
Under the new standing order, general appropriations bills must contain a “spending reduction account,” which allows a Member offering an amendment to reduce the spending level in one part of the bill and increase the level allocated to the spending reduction account. Further, it is not in order to consider an amendment which reduces the level in the spending reduction account, or an amendment proposing to increase net budget authority in the bill, meaning that if spending is reduced in one part of the bill, another Member cannot offer an amendment to utilize the “headroom” created by the earlier adopted reduction. While this provision does not change the actual budget allocations for the bill, it does protect spending reductions through House consideration and provides a marker for the Appropriations Committee as it conferences the bill with the Senate.