Congress must end governing by crisis

The federal budget process is broken. I’ve only been in Congress four months and that’s clear to me. Since 2010, Congress has passed 31 continuing resolutions to keep the federal government open. Only three fiscal years since 1955 have not produced a continuing resolution. The institution has been governing by crisis for far too long. The most recent omnibus was more than 1,600 pages and only funds the government for five months (and is seven months late). I was sent to Congress not to prop up the failed status quo, but to help end it.

By governing from one funding crisis to the next, always under the threat of a government shutdown, Congress has not been able to properly evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs. As a member of the House Budget Committee, I believe the first step must be for our committee to hold a hearing on how we can improve the budget process and reestablish regular order – an annual budget resolution and 12 appropriations bills. We’re operating under the Budget Control Act of 1974 – maybe it’s time we reexamine how to do it better.

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Our reforms should include strengthening budget enforcement, increasing transparency for hardworking American taxpayers, establishing long-term debt limits and reforming mandatory spending.

Next, Congress should pass three bipartisan bills I support and co-sponsored. The No Budget, No Pay Act would withhold pay from members of Congress after Oct. 1, 2017 unless Congress uses regular order to pass a budget resolution and appropriations bills. Members of Congress should be held to the same standard as hardworking Americans – if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.

The Hold Congress Accountable Act would reduce the salary of each member of Congress for the duration of a federal government shutdown. Each day the shutdown is in effect, the annual salary for each member would be reduced by an amount equal to one day’s worth of pay. The American people expect us to complete this basic task, and it’s what they deserve.

The Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act would reform the budget and appropriations process by extending it from one year to two years. The bill directs the process to take place during non-election years – ensuring members of Congress have ample time to complete the process – and directs Congress to evaluate long-term budgetary effects of proposed funding to help eliminate wasteful government spending and programs. Passing longer-term spending bills would give Congress more time to focus on other priorities like creating jobs, spurring economic growth and keeping the American people safe.

We should also examine Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersLawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress EPA head clashes with California over how car emissions negotiations broke down MORE' (Wash.) bill to end spending on programs and agencies that are not authorized. This effort shouldn’t rest entirely on the Appropriations Committee; some responsibility rests with the authorizing committees as well. No authorization, no funding.

Passing these bills would bring greater accountability to the federal budget process and help ensure responsible spending of taxpayer dollars.

As a final preventative measure, last week I introduced the Government Shutdown Prevention Act. This bill would provide for an automatic continuing resolution for any appropriations bills not completed before the end of the fiscal year. If a budget is still not completed 120 days past the deadline, federal funding levels would be reduced by one percent, and again after each subsequent 90-day period.

The United States Congress is the single greatest deliberative body in the world. We represent a diverse set of priorities across the political spectrum. We should have open and transparent discussions about solutions to the problems we face as a nation. Our constituents expect us to have those debates. But when it comes to keeping the federal government open through regular order, there should be no debate. We cannot allow American taxpayers and federal employees to be held hostage by Congress’ inability to pass a budget resolution and appropriations bills. The American people deserve better.

Smucker represents Pennsylvania’s 16th District and is a member of the Budget Committee.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.