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Following the recent uproar over the passing of PAYGO rules by the House of Representatives' democratic majority, I heard it said that "PAYGO rules" are necessary to waive the effect of the "PAYGO law". Well, I looked that latter up, and found:

The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010

PAYGO, in the context of this act, means that legislation mandating (federal) government expenditure cannot be passed as law without also passing balancing cuts to spending or increases to revenue. Some kinds of expenditure are exempted (see link for a list) - but this seems to be a fixed list. I see no mention of a clause saying "whatever the House procedural rules choose to waive".

So, my questions are:

  • Why even have "PAYGO rules", if it's mandated by law anyway?
  • Can the effect of the 2010 act be somehow "waived", as some Democrats suggest will be done?
  • If the effect of the act can be "waived", can't it just be always-waived, rendering the act toothless?
  • Doesn't the PAYGO act also apply to legislation which cuts revenues? i.e. doesn't that also need to be balanced by spending cuts or revenue increases elsewhere? Obviously I'm asking this in light of last years' passage of the monumental tax cuts.
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Why even have "PAYGO rules", if it's mandated by law anyway?

Because the House (and Senate) legislate under their own rules. The statutory requirements in PAYGO are expressed in terms of those rules.

Budget Enforcement Procedures: House Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Rule, Updated August 12, 2019.

The House PAYGO rule exists alongside similar PAYGO requirements in statute, but with some significant differences. The House rule (1) applies the PAYGO requirement during the consideration of legislation on the House floor, (2) applies generally to each measure individually, and (3) is enforced by a point of order on the House floor.

The Statutory PAYGO Act, in contrast, (1) applies the requirement to legislation after it has been enacted, (2) applies to the net effect of all legislation enacted during a session of Congress, and (3) is enforced by sequestration—the cancellation of budgetary resources provided by laws affecting direct spending—to eliminate an increase in the deficit resulting from the enactment of legislation.


Can the effect of the 2010 act be somehow "waived", as some Democrats suggest will be done?

Only by designating that the spending (or revenue) changes are an emergency. See: 2 U.S. Code § 933 (g)(2) and House rule XXI 10(c)(1).


If the effect of the act can be "waived", can't it just be always-waived, rendering the act toothless?

No, the designation of an emergency under PAYGO requires the Senate to agree by a three-fifths vote; if a Senator raises a "point of order". See: 2 U.S. Code § 933 (g)(3).


Doesn't the PAYGO act also apply to legislation which cuts revenues? i.e. doesn't that also need to be balanced by spending cuts or revenue increases elsewhere?

Yes. 2 U.S. Code § 931. Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to reestablish a statutory procedure to enforce a rule of budget neutrality on new revenue and direct spending legislation.


Obviously I'm asking this in light of last years' passage of the monumental tax cuts.

See: H. Rept. 115-409 - TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT 115th Congress (2017-2018), pp. 468-470, for "Pay-As-You-Go considerations".

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  • I looked, but couldn't understand what I was seeing. I mean, it's estimated that over 10 years the cuts will result in 1,456.1 Billion USD extra deficit, and then below there's another estimate which says there are going to be about that much more revenues. Where did that balancing figure come from? It seems kind of like waving a magic wand. – einpoklum Feb 14 at 21:09

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