Here’s a shocking factoid: the overwhelming majority of lawmakers serving in Congress have never seen the federal budget process operate as it’s intended. It’s no secret the budget and appropriations processes are dysfunctional; what is less known is what some are trying to do about it.
Writing in Real Clear Policy, Congressional Institute President Mark Strand discusses how fixing how Congress approaches the budget could help the Legislative Branch reassert its authority over the Executive Branch. From the article:
The extensive use of CRs and omnibuses has increased the power of the political extremes at the expense of committee chairs who have become less involved in leadership negotiations with the Executive Branch. Creating a functioning budget process could not only restore committees to their proper place but also restore the imbalance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Congress and the President are co-equals in our governmental system. It’s time Congress reasserted its authority.
The mechanism for fixing this is the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reforms. It was created in the February budget act and is a bipartisan, bicameral entity that has been meeting regularly to discuss reform ideas.
Two ideas the Congressional Institute supports are moving to biennial budgeting and switching the start of the federal fiscal year to January. Here’s why that’s important, from Strand’s piece:
Passing a two-year budget early on would give lawmakers the time needed to pass authorization bills before appropriating the money from the U.S. Treasury. Regular authorization bills are important since they allow Congress to keep firm control over policy.
Strand mentions a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office that looked at discretionary appropriations for certain federal programs. The CBO found three categories and determined that nearly half appropriations were for multi-year spending or programs that did not have a set end-date.
Read the full oped at Real Clear Policy by clicking here.