Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform shows bipartisanship can still work in Congress

Over the past several months, midterm elections have consumed Washington and the country.

Some candidates are running in 2018 as champions for specific issues, while others are running as referendums to certain agendas. But all candidates are running campaigns against dysfunction in Congress. And for good reason.

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Congress’s approval rating today stands at 19 percent. Compromise has become toxic. Everywhere you look – from large legislative packages to judicial nominations – what used to serve as examples of successes of our representative democracy now stick out as sore thumbs of vitriolic partisan politics.

In part, this is dramatized by the media. Calls for bipartisanship make for great soundbites, but actual acts of bipartisanship simply don’t sell. As America becomes increasingly polarized, I believe this will unfortunately get worse before it gets better.

But that does not mean there are not acts of bipartisanship taking place every day in the halls of Congress, and I am proud to join Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Overnight Defense: Trump, Dem leaders fight before cameras over border wall | GOP skeptical of having military build wall | US spars with Russia, Venezuela over bomber deployment Trump, Democrats battle over wall in Oval Office spat MORE (D-NY) in co-chairing one such effort.

The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform was established by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Our panel of 16 members – four House Republicans, four House Democrats, four Senate Republicans, and four Senate Democrats – is charged with producing recommendations to significantly reform the federal budget and appropriations process.

The most important role given to Congress under the Constitution is the power of the purse. Unfortunately, the ability to fulfill our Article I duty has also fallen victim to partisan politics.

Our existing budget framework was conceived in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. However, historical record shows that Congress has rarely followed the Budget Act’s required steps and met its process deadlines. In fact, regular order as outlined by the Budget Act has eluded Congress since fiscal year 1995—the last time Congress passed a budget conference agreement followed by all appropriations bills before the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Instead of doing our work, Congress has become reliant on continuing resolutions; between 1977 and 2017, we enacted 176. Over the same period, we shut down the government 19 times. This, simply put, is an unacceptable record.

Although comprised of a diversity of political thought, the members of the Joint Select Committee have clearly shared a common goal since being given our charge: producing recommendations that meaningfully improve the congressional budget and appropriations process rather than offering prescriptions for specific budgetary outcomes that benefit one party. We have found value in compromise and collaboration and believe that no matter who holds a majority in either Chamber, our budgetary framework should encourage, if not ensure our success.

We have not strayed from that principle, and our panel has been hard at work – together, Republicans and Democrats – throughout the year. Shortly after the midterms, we expect to meet our statutory deadline and report out our recommendations. Just as in any negotiation, they will not include everything I hoped to accomplish, nor will they include everything any of us hoped to accomplish. Rather, they will reflect the areas in which eight Republicans and eight Democrats from both sides of the Capitol found consensus to move the ball forward. That, in my mind, is a win.

Ultimately, news of our bipartisan work may not break through the noise of post-election posturing. I regret that. But as you watch returns come in Nov. 6, regardless of which party “wins,” know that there is and will continue to be bipartisan cooperation and efforts ongoing to ultimately make Congress work better together and work better for the American people.

Womack has represented Arkansas’s Third District since 2011. He serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations. Additionally, he co-chairs the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform.