Senators call for two-year budget process

“I think this is the magic year for us to make changes in the process and the way we do business,” Isakson said at a Thursday news conference. “It has to be done in a bipartisan way. But debt’s a bipartisan problem. It’s been contributed to on both sides of the aisle.”

“Since 1980, we’ve only had two budgets that have been completed on time,” said Shaheen, who was involved in a two-year budget process during her stint as New Hampshire’s governor. “Every president since Ronald Reagan has said we need to take a look at the budgeting process.”

Under the measure, the actual appropriating process would occur in the first, or odd-numbered, year of a given Congress, with the second, even-numbered year focusing on oversight.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a even-numbered year debate where members of Congress, where, when they go home, they’re not talking about the bacon they’re getting ready to bring home through appropriating?” Isakson said. “They’re talking about the savings they found to fund programs in the future.”

Both Shaheen and Isakson, who sat together at Tuesday’s State of the Union, stressed that they were early in the process of building support for their proposal, with Shaheen saying she had not yet broached the topic with Democratic leaders in the Senate. Isakson said a handful of Republican senators, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, had signaled they would support the measure.

When asked whether he would attempt to hold up a vote on increasing the debt ceiling as leverage for the measure, Isakson said he wouldn’t make any predictions, but also that he wouldn’t take anything off the table.

“I personally will be willing to use whatever vehicle is necessary to get it debated on the floor of the United States Senate,” Isakson said. 

The two senators said they also had been in discussions with Chambliss and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) about legislation those two senators are modeling after the report from president’s bipartisan debt commission.