After passing 173 short-term spending bills over the past 38 years, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi called for major reforms, proposing a biennial budget approach to streamline the process during a hearing held Wednesday.
The legislative branch has a history of dysfunctionality when it comes to passing a budget. It has only completed the appropriations process on schedule four times over the course of the past four decades.
“Passing 12 appropriations bills every year is something that Congress is simply unable to accomplish, particularly in light of all the other work that fills up the calendar — including passing other crucial legislation, enacting authorization bills, conducting oversight, and so forth,” said Delaware Democrat Tom Carper during a Congressional testimony Wednesday. “At the same time, annual appropriations do little to foster longer-term planning either in Congress or among the agency decision-makers that make use of appropriated funds.”
Under Enzi’s proposed legislation, half of the 12 appropriations bills would have to be passed every year; the more pressing issues would be taken up during election years.
The Wyoming Republican said a two-year approach, which has seen bipartisan support, would increase oversight and hold the government more accountable for taxpayers’ dollars.
Critics of the idea say it will give lawmakers less flexibility in appropriating funds to agencies and less time to evaluate the performance of their programs.
“This is truly a case in which the remedy is worse than the disease,” said Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat testifying before the committee. “Off-year oversight would be less, not more, effective because it would be further removed from actual funding decisions, reducing Congress’s leverage.”
While Congress managed to pass a budget last week, lawmakers still have to negotiate a spending package by Dec. 11 to prevent a government shutdown.
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