Perdue proposes cutting lawmakers' travel budgets if they miss fiscal deadlines

Perdue proposes cutting lawmakers' travel budgets if they miss fiscal deadlines
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), an outspoken advocate for budget and spending reform, on Wednesday will unveil a proposal to impose consequences for lawmakers who continue to miss key spending deadlines.

Perdue says the 1974 Budget Act simply doesn’t work and points to the 21 government shutdowns that have taken place over the past 45 years, including a 35-day shutdown to start 2019.

“This is just clearly something that’s just broken. It’s never going to work,” he told a group of reporters in a preview of the legislation. “Congress has proven over the last 45 years that it will not, it does not have the wherewithal to get the government funded on time.”

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Perdue’s Fix Funding First Act of 2019 would overhaul the congressional spending process and impose milestones to keep Congress from falling behind schedule on its work.

It would implement a biennial budget process and require Congress to pass two-year top-line spending limits by the Friday before Presidents Day in odd-numbered, nonelection years. This funding agreement would be a joint resolution and have the force of law.

If lawmakers fail to meet that goal, then the spending limit of the current fiscal year would be automatically imposed for the following year.

Perdue’s plan calls for Congress to stick with an annual appropriations process but one with regular deadlines and penalties if lawmakers fall behind. It would shift the end of the fiscal year from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31.

It would mandate that 25 percent of the federal discretionary budget spent through the annual appropriations bills must be completed by the Friday before Easter; 50 percent by the Friday before Memorial Day; 75 percent by the Friday before the Fourth of July and 100 percent by the August recess.

If these milestones aren’t met, then the Senate and House would not be able to adjourn for more than eight hours and no money could be obligated for official travel by a member of Congress, except to allow a lawmaker to return to Washington.

If both the Senate and House have not passed a funding agreement and all spending bills by Dec. 31, Perdue’s proposal would prohibit payment to any member of Congress, congressional, or Office of Management and Budget staff.

The bold proposal could win support from other Republicans concerned about the mounting federal debt and the dysfunctional congressional spending process.

“David and I have been working on this together since we first came to the Senate back in 2015,” said Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesFallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (R-Mont.). “There are a lot of broken processes in Washington, DC. This one of the most broken.”

“I’m on the same page as David in terms of needing to make these structural changes,” he said. “We can apply some best practices from our states and the private sector.”

Perdue’s bill would also overhaul the Senate Budget Committee by requiring it to report five-year strategic budget plans biennially and set a target for public debt to gross domestic product ratio.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziPoll: Majority of independent voters want GOP to retain control of Senate in 2020 Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words MORE (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday declined to comment on Perdue’s plan, noting that the legislation will come before his panel.

Even more ambitiously, Perdue also wants to reform mandatory spending and realign congressional committees so that authorizing and appropriating responsibilities are unified under the same panels.

Specifically, he wants to switch mandatory spending programs such as Social Security and Medicare to discretionary programs funded by annual bills passed by Congress if those programs need to dip into the general fund to meet their obligations.

For Medicare’s hospital insurance fund, that switch would take place in 2026, when it is projected to exhaust itself.

“In seven years, the Medicare Trust Fund goes to zero, which means that shortfall between liabilities and revenues coming in has to be met by the general fund. And when that happens, it has to come under the budget process,” Perdue said of his vision.

But these reforms dealing with mandatory spending and committee realignment would be accomplished in separate legislation.