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Flurry of Budget Process Reforms Blanket House

While each bill has some merit, there is no indication that individually or collectively they will relieve current bottle-necks to timely action on the Congressional budget or appropriations measures. If anything, the joint budget resolution could prolong the time it takes on both processes by injecting the president into negotiations on budget resolution numbers — something that undermines an original purpose of the Budget Act, which was to restore Congress’ primacy over the purse strings.

The most meritorious bill awaiting action is a biennial budgeting bill sponsored by Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). It would put budget resolutions and appropriations bills on two-year cycles, freeing up one session each Congress for more oversight and policy authorizations. The House rejected Dreier’s proposal a few years ago, but it is certainly worth revisiting.

The short turnaround time on the four budget reform bills, with no hearings, no bipartisan co-sponsors and the public relations peg to “day 1,000” of Senate inaction leads one to conclude that this was little more than a political swipe at the budget-challenged Senate.

However, it was also a useful training exercise for Budget Committee reform bill sponsors to better learn the process and become more engaged Members (something other committee chairmen might want to emulate). Perhaps coincidentally it has started a larger conversation about the need for significant budget process reform. That larger effort will require a great deal more contemplation, coordination and deliberation.

Don Wolfensberger is a Congressional scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a resident scholar with the Bipartisan Policy Center, and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.

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