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New Joint Committee Can Make Meaningful Reforms to Congressional Budget Process

There’s a new committee in town. It can be a very important one. It’s not a permanent committee – it will wrap up its work in late November. It has a single task: to recommend reforms and changes to the congressional budget process that can be adopted by Congress.

Congressional Institute President Mark Strand writes about this new Joint Committee in a piece published in The Hill, a leading newspaper that covers Congress. Beginning to fix the budget dysfunction would be a strong sign to their constituents that Members are Congress are listening. Strand writes:

Since 2016, the Congressional Institute has been commissioning research to look at the growing dissatisfaction that middle-class voters have with Congress. What we’ve found is that, year after year, voters feel more and more strongly that their elected representatives are tuning them out. Research that we’ve posted on our website shows that almost 60 percent of voters don’t think that Washington hears them and just 29 percent believe that lawmakers are paying attention. Among the top concerns of survey participants were how Congress spends tax dollars and Congress not fulfilling its constitutional duties.

The important thing is that the Joint Committee doesn’t have to rewrite the 1974 Budget Act to be successful. Unlike the 2011 Supercommittee that had to figure out how to cut $1.5 trillion in government spending over a decade, the Joint Committee can focus on process outcomes instead of fiscal outcomes. Process changes could be a lot easier to agree on.Strand discusses two approaches the committee could look at:

Two significant changes Joint Committee members could look at are moving to a two-year budget process and changing the start of the fiscal year to Jan. 1. A two-year budget would give authorizing committees and Executive Branch agencies and departments greater certainty about funding levels. It also will let Congress exercise more effective oversight. … Moving the beginning of the fiscal year to January 1 gives Congress more time to do its work. It also puts some distance between needing to wrap up spending bills and November elections, which can derail even the most well-intentioned bills.

As Strand writes, “government shut-downs and legislative duct tape” are not the right way to do business. Instead, the bipartisan, bicameral Joint Committee could provide an incentive for lawmakers to develop some “common-sense budget reforms that will get us away from the stop-gap measures required to compensate for missed deadlines.”

Click here to read the full piece.

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