06.29.18

Momentum Builds For Changing Congress’ Broken Budget Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform held an open mic hearing where Members of both chambers of Congress suggested their ideas for improving the budget and appropriations process.

U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee and Joint Select Committee, has made it one of his top priorities to change Congress’ failed budget process. Over the past three years, he has met with policy experts, outside groups, retired Members of Congress, and his colleagues from both parties and chambers to study best practices and highlight the flaws of the current budget process.

In 2016, Senator Perdue published a paper outlining the guiding principles Congress should consider when creating a new budget process. Many of his ideas were echoed during this week’s hearing.

Click here to watch the hearing. 

End Backroom Spending Bills 

House Speaker Paul Ryan: “Members who spend all their time in the committees, doing the research, doing the oversight – they’re the ones who should be making these [funding] decisions. We do not have a functional process. The power is too concentrated. I would say calling this organized chaos is too generous of a description.”

Include All Government Spending In Budget

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN): “Everything ought to be, in my opinion, in the budget. Everything including Social Security, which would cause us to focus on the fact that in the not-too-distant future it’s going to be fiscally unsound.”

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT): “We need to have an up or down vote on the entire budget – one number. One number that includes discretionary and mandatory spending.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC-05): “What’s amazing is the appropriations bills only cover one-third of federal spending. I would ask that we try to find solutions from those on this committee and in Congress. Entitlement spending is the biggest driver of our spending problems.”

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS-01): “Right now, three-fourths of our federal budget is going toward entitlement programs, and it seems like we don’t have a chance in the budget or appropriations committees for doing anything. The current treatment of that spending sets up failure as there is no practical opportunity to edit or adjust the programs.”

Change Committee Structure & Eliminate Budget Committee

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN): “We ought to consider combining the authorizing functions and the appropriating functions together. We ought to actually do away with the Budget Committee because it performs no useful function as it relates to causing us to be fiscally sound.”

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT): “I would combine the authorizing committees with the corresponding appropriations committees. Consolidate them and completely dissolve the Budget Committee. By doing this, we can start having real conversations about where to spend and how to spend it. We currently have two processes on different tracks that simply don’t sync up.”

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT): “Senator Perdue and others have shown this incredible spaghetti tangle of authorizing committees and appropriations committees and then we have this Budget Committee on top of that. No wonder it produces a bad result. It’s very complicated, and it’s not unified.”

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN-01): “If you would make one change tomorrow, I would get rid of the Budget Act of the 1970s. The fact is, you have so few people on that committee who are charged with making the hard decisions of raising revenue, the hard decisions of the expenditures of those revenues in an effective and efficient manner, that people make assumptions.”

Change Senate Rules

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL-04): “To ensure these bills will be completed in a timely manner, I would submit that the Senate has got to strongly consider doing away with the filibuster rule on appropriations legislation. By eliminating this practice on appropriations bills, federal funding can be streamlined, and this institution can get back to upholding our constitutional responsibility.” 

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-04): “The House routinely passes [appropriations bills]. The Senate does not because its dysfunctional cloture rule gives the minority the ability to block them. That’s easy to fix, give appropriations bills the same expedited consideration in the Senate that the reconciliation bills already have.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05): “Hopefully, our esteemed colleagues on the other side of the Capitol will come to their senses and allow a 50-vote majority on going to proceed. If they want to filibuster the bill once it gets on the floor, fine and dandy, but moving to proceed on appropriations bills ought to be a majority vote. Neither body should have the authority and power to shut down the government.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05): “Motion to proceed in the Senate should be a majority vote, especially for appropriations bills. I think the pressure should build, and is building, on the Senate to change this archaic rule that is preventing the government from operating.

Consequences For Inaction

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT): “We need to create incentives to pass a budget. We should look at both carrots and sticks. At a minimum, I know in Montana, they don’t get to leave until the budget’s done. There’s an incentive there to keep members there until they actually get the budget completed.”

Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12): “There may be a better way to incentivize these bodies to act. Perhaps no August recess until appropriations bills are done. We need an incentive like this to get our process back in order, or maybe we need a new process entirely.”

Change the Fiscal Year to Align With the Calendar Year

House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We may not be able to change the deadlines, but we can change the calendar.”

Rep. David Price (D-NC-04): “I have been following the work of this committee, and I like much of what I have heard, especially the possibility of ending debt ceiling brinkmanship or moving to a calendar year budget cycle.” 

Eliminate Debt Limit

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer: “The debt limit ought to be eliminated. It is a phony issue. It lends itself to gamesmanship and brinksmanship which is harmful to our country and not honest with the American people.”

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-11):I view the debt limit as the most unnecessary and disastrous risk to financial stability and the economic recovery over the last eight years.”

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-04): “The debt ceiling does absolutely no good in terms of controlling the amount of debt or enforcing fiscal discipline. Let’s get rid of the hand grenade that each party gets to use once every couple of years. It led to downgrades. It led to market insecurity. Let’s get rid of it. It does absolutely no good to anybody.”

Biannual Budgeting

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “I do believe two years for the budget, one year for appropriations legislation is the route to go.”

Rep. French Hill (R-AR-02): “I fully endorse the two year budget cycle for annual budget resolutions and having a two year spending allocation under that resolution.” 

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Senator Perdue is the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress and is serving his first term in the United States Senate, where he represents Georgia on the Armed Services, Banking, Budget, and Agriculture Committees.