Formed from a provision in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform is a bipartisan, bicameral group charged with identifying and recommending reforms to the budget and appropriations process. This select committee is tasked with holding at least five public hearings and releasing their recommendations by November 30, 2018. Yesterday the committee held its fifth public hearing but is speculated to continue meeting past the five-hearing minimum requirement. With both parties agreeing that the congressional budget process needs to be reformed, it’s encouraging to see both sides come together to create lasting institutional change that will encourage Congress to implement a timely and sensical budget process.
1. Witnesses agreed the current environment of crisis-driven budgeting, resulting from the failure to pass spending bills on time and reach a bipartisan agreement must stop. Party leadership must push for timely budget bills and encourage the establishment of budget priorities.
2. Both parties must stop using the budget process for political games. Unfortunately, today’s congressional budgets have become political tools rather than substantive blueprints that set the funding priorities for the fiscal year. Members should focus on the needs of the country and pass budgets that lay the groundwork for all other legislative business.
3. Biennial budgets would allow Congress and executive agencies to better plan ahead and use federal resources more wisely.
4. Discretionary spending (yearly appropriations) are only one-third of the federal budget. The vast majority of the budget is on automatic pilot. There should be periodic reviews of mandatory spending (the funds used for entitlement programs, like social security) and tax expenditures (tax cuts and benefits).
5. Bring back earmarks with strong transparency and oversight. Once overall spending caps have been set, give members of Congress, who best understand the needs of their districts, more say over where federal dollars are spent rather than ceding those decisions to federal bureaucrats.