Jun 27, 2018

3 Ways to Defeat Dysfunction on the Hill

In June 2014, a hyper partisan year, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform endeavored to make our governing institutions work better for Americans. Former Sens. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott joined 27 others to recommend Congress reforms, improve election management and promote civic engagement. At the time, it appeared that the discourse and dysfunction in Washington couldn’t get any worse. Yet, four years later, it has.

Despite this, there are still reasons to believe change is on the horizon—take, for example, the bipartisan legislation to reform the federal prison system or both chambers’ bipartisan dedication to tackle the opioid crisis. However, the biggest signal of optimism is the Senate’s bipartisan commitment to moving appropriations bills on the floor through regular order, instead of a last-minute spending package. If the Senate succeeds in passing the 12 appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline, it’ll be a major development for the budget and appropriations process. Congress has passed all 12 appropriations bills by the annual Oct. 1 deadline just four times in the last 40 years, and from 2011 to 2016, not a single one was passed on time. Further, Congress has failed to pass a budget resolution on time for seven of the last 10 years.

In light of this, the former senators have banded together again to recommend three of their CPR suggestions to the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, which is examining how to overcome political barriers that have made massive, last-minute spending bills and government shutdowns the norm.

Their three recommendations are:

  1. Congress should codify its recent tendency toward approving biennial budgets, including two-year budget resolutions and appropriations bills.
  2. Maintain the 60-vote threshold for legislation, while eliminating the ability to filibuster motions to move to consideration of legislation.
  3. Allow each side of the aisle a minimum number of amendments to each piece of legislation.

Now, more than ever, it’s time for Congress to come together and reform itself at the core by funding the government in a timely, bipartisan manner as a critical first step. Read the senators’ recommendations in full in their latest Roll Call column here.

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