Congressional panel scales back bipartisan budget reform proposal

Congressional panel scales back bipartisan budget reform proposal
A major overhaul of the federal budgeting process appears to be off the table, as a special committee on reform prepares to instead advance a scaled-back version of the proposal.
 
The only significant recommendation expected to move forward is a shift from annual budgeting to a biennial budgeting calendar.
 
“The recommendations are narrow,” said an aide familiar with the process, who cautioned that changes were still possible, but unlikely.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Relegated to the sidelines were suggestions of aligning the fiscal year with the calendar year, restoring “pay-as-you-go” rules, enacting transparency requirements in the appropriations process and creating new rules for the debt ceiling.
 
The slimmed-down proposal would also omit a suggestion that Congress consider only half of the 12 appropriations bills each year for two-year periods, a plan that outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCalif. congresswoman-elect bumps into Pelosi at airport How this year’s freshmen can save the Congress — and themselves Democrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters MORE (R-Wis.) supported.
 
Members of the committee said that while the bipartisan process was encouraging, the results left something to be desired.
 
"I am under no illusion this technical change will solve long-term fiscal problems," said Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthPelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion Top House Budget Dem predicts a 'nonconfrontational' committee under Dem leadership Top House Budget Dem signals support for border security but opposes border wall MORE (D-Ky.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee who is expected to take the gavel in the next Congress. “Addressing them will require members to compromise across the aisle and across chambers."
 
The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations was formed as part of February's budget cap deal, which raised discretionary spending caps for 2018 and 2019. It called for five public hearings and legislative text by Nov. 30.
 
Its formation stemmed from a broad recognition that the budgeting process in Congress, established in 1974, is broken. This year, the two chambers managed to send only five of the 12 spending bills to the president’s desk for his signature before Oct. 1, the first day of the fiscal year.
 
And that was a vast improvement over recent years. The rest of the government was kept open through a continuing resolution, a stop-gap measure that keeps existing funding levels in place. That spending authority expires on Dec. 7.
 
“Instead of doing our work, Congress has become reliant on continuing resolutions; between 1977 and 2017, we enacted 176,” committee co-chair Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackCongressional panel scales back bipartisan budget reform proposal Hillicon Valley: Officials prepare for fake election hack claims | Apple chief calls for tougher data rules | Lawmakers want Pentagon to probe cloud computing contract | Facebook, Twitter find no proof of Chinese meddling Overnight Defense: Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing 'heinous crime' in first public remarks | Dems demand briefing on Trump leaving arms control treaty | Lawmakers want probe into Pentagon cloud computing contract MORE (R-Ark.) wrote in The Hill last week. “Over the same period, we shut down the government 19 times. This, simply put, is an unacceptable record.”
 
 
The special committee’s other co-chair, Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyDem women rally behind Pelosi Lawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief On The Money: Amazon taps New York, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it means for the DC area | Dems target vulnerable commerce chief | Earmarks look to be making a comeback MORE (D-N.Y.), has said the process can work if the lawmakers choose to cooperate rather than bog down the spending process with political battles. She pointed to the Senate, where an agreement to keep “poison pill” policy riders out of the process helped push the process ahead this year.
 
“Flawed rules and procedures aren’t the root cause of much of what people complain about in budgeting,” Lowey said in one of the committee’s public hearing in June. “Rather, the root cause often lies in deep divisions over policy, combined with misplaced priorities, partisanship and polarization. 
 
But disagreements between co-chairs Womack and Lowey have left only the two-year proposal and technical changes in the legislation, expected to be released Wednesday ahead of a likely markup on Thursday.
 
While members could still offer amendments, they will likely require a bipartisan majority to pass.
 
The legislation that formed the committee required a Senate floor vote, but no instructions for the House, so it is unclear if even the narrow reform package will move forward.
 
Congress is expected to have its hands full in the lame-duck session, seeking to find agreement on a farm bill and avert a shutdown for the unfunded portions of the government. President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE has threatened a partial government shutdown if Congress does not approve funding for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.