A good test of whether the 113th Congress is likely to take budgeting seriously will come early this week, when the House considers the remainder of its Hurricane Sandy relief legislation.

House conservatives are proposing several amendments that would cut enough spending to offset the $17 billion base bill (H.R. 152) to be offered by Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R–KY). Chairman Rogers has trimmed the measure from the swollen $60 billion requested by President Obama and passed by the Senate. Nevertheless, the amendments would help. If adopted, they would, refreshingly enough, prevent the legislation from increasing net spending, despite its “disaster” and “emergency” labels.

Both President Obama and the Senate have exploited those designations—huge loopholes built into the Budget Control Act (BCA), which has become Congress’s proxy budget—to exceed the BCA’s spending limits by any amount they desire. The amendments give House Members a chance to start the new Congress with a small but noteworthy act of genuine fiscal discipline.

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