Conrad, Sessions still seeking agreement on budget reforms

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Conrad is aiming to draft a proposal to the deficit supercommittee and hold a budget committee meeting before the Friday deadline. Under the August debt-ceiling deal, regular committees have until Oct. 14 to submit recommendations to the 12-member supercommittee.

That group is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by Nov. 23 for a congressional consideration by the end of 2012.

The hearing was largely focused on whether to change the budget resolution from a congressional document without the force of law into a law signed by the president.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is the primary backer of the change and he argues it would force more involvement from the administration in forging budget deals early in the annual spending process.

 Three expert witnesses said they were worried it would give too much power to the president. 

University of Maryland Professor Philip Joyce, Paul Ponser of George Mason University and Louis Fisher, who helped design the current process in the 1970s, all said they opposed the idea.

They argued that giving the president the right to veto a budget that does not conform to his budget proposal simply strips too much power away from Congress and could result in the same sorts of delays in appropriations that now lead to frequent temporary spending bills and threats of government shutdowns.

Joyce and Posner however spoke in favor of putting more pressure on the budget committee.

“Anything to create incentives is worth doing,” Joyce said.

“It could have the same effect of a discharge petition in the House,” Posner said, referring to a House procedure that can force bills out of committees and onto the floor.

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