Aug 28, 2018

Congress Needs a Biennial Budget: Here’s Why

What’s one issue that both parties can agree on? The federal budget process is flawed. And with the new fiscal year approaching on October 1, the process failings are becoming more evident with battles over how federal funds should be spent and continual threats of a government shutdown.

There’s also a growing bipartisan consensus on how to fix this logjammed system: by adopting a biennial budget, which aims to improve the efficiency of the congressional budget process by requiring Congress to create a budget for two-year cycles instead of annually. If implemented, Congress would adopt a budget and all appropriations bills in the first year (odd-numbered terms) which would allow time for authorization in the second year. This would generate more thoughtful consideration of how government funds should be allocated and would eliminate the annual gridlock that has led to nearly 20 government shutdowns in the last 42 years.

There are many benefits to a biennial budget, but the three main reasons include:

  1. Better oversight of taxpayer dollars: One of Congress’s core responsibilities is to perform thorough oversight of government agencies, but this job is often forfeited due to the time-consuming nature of the appropriations process. By lengthening the budget process, authorizing committees and agencies would have more time to dedicate to long-term planning, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being managed properly.
  2. More time for substantive debate to solve pressing issues: The current budget process is lengthy, which means legislators don’t have the proper time to focus on other important issues. Implementing a biennial budget would mean less time in a year is spent on the back-and-forth of budget debates and more focus is placed on solving other pressing issues facing our nation.
  3. Reduce brinksmanship: The current budget process’ procedures and rules are complex and time-consuming. Legislators are often scrambling at the last minute to defeat gridlock and finalize appropriations bills. A biennial budget would free up more time for debate, easing gridlock and addressing imprudent budget-making.

A biennial budget would not only repair our broken, complex budget process, it would also send a message to Congress that broader congressional reforms are needed to get government working for the American people. While it has been at the center of debate over the last several decades, the time for action is now. As the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform issues its recommendations to improve the budget and appropriations process by its November 30 deadline, biennial budgeting could become a reality. That’s why it’s imperative to urge your member of Congress to call on the Joint Select Committee to recommend a biennial budget in its report recommendations.

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