Isakson and Shaheen: Congress Should Make Switch to Biennial Budgeting
The American people are waiting for leadership from Washington. They desperately want to see both parties work together to strengthen our economy and reduce our deficit for the good of the nation. But instead of debating these issues, Congress was once again forced to pass a temporary funding measure because it has failed to complete its annual budget process.
In fact, Congress has passed a budget on time only twice in the past 31 years.
The Congressional budget process is broken. Whatever the reasons, no matter who has been in power, whether we have divided government or one-party rule, the budget process has failed. Members of Congress have little opportunity to thoughtfully analyze annual budgets or exercise their Constitutional authority and responsibility to oversee federal agencies. Agencies themselves run less efficiently because they are forced to spend much of their time engaged in an uncertain budget process. And taxpayers are more likely to see their tax dollars wasted.
That is why we have proposed bipartisan legislation to convert the federal budget process from an annual, chaotic rush, to a two-year, more thoughtful process that requires Congress to conduct oversight. The Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act dedicates the first year of a Congress to appropriating federal dollars and devotes the second year to scrutinizing federal programs to determine whether they are working and deserve continued funding.
This common-sense reform would force Congress to become better stewards of the taxpayers’ money. It would reduce reckless and wasteful spending by increasing oversight. It would allow Congress to think more long-term, trading politically expedient decisions for sounder choices on the investments needed to strengthen our nation over the long term.
Biennial budgeting would also provide much-needed stability and certainty for the thousands of companies who do regular business with the federal government. Stability and long-term planning is fundamental to helping these businesses grow. We have heard from small businesses in both of our states that uncertainty in the federal budget process is hurting their bottom line.
Biennial budgeting has been endorsed by each president since Ronald Reagan, by independent government watchdog groups and by 33 Senators from both parties. We recently wrote to the members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, urging them to look at this proposal as they consider what reforms are necessary to get our government spending back on a sustainable path.
That committee faces many tough decisions on how to approach the deficit, as does all of Congress. Congress will always face tough choices about the best use of this country’s resources, but we can make better, more effective choices by adopting biennial budgeting.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is sponsor of S. 211, the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is one of 34 co-sponsors.