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Modernization Panel Takes Hard Look at Budget and Appropriations Process

September 20, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A House panel charged with improving Congress’s procedures and performance took a hard look Thursday at one of the government’s most difficult exercises, the annual budget and appropriations process.

Last year, the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform was tasked with producing bipartisan recommendations to significantly reform the current funding process in Congress.

The committee did produce a bicameral, bipartisan package of reforms, but were unable to pass these reforms with the majority needed to advance.

On Thursday, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress heard from Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., currently chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.

Lowey and Womack were the co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform when it made its failed recommendations. They spoke of lessons learned and where they believed opportunities for reform continue to exist.

Lowey spoke specifically of two legislative changes she proposed. 

These were “moving from an annual to a biennial budget resolution, requiring a resolution in the first year of each Congress and providing appropriations allocations for both the first and second years of the biennium, and providing a mechanism to facilitate action on appropriations even if a budget resolution is not adopted, ideally by allowing for a concurrent resolution dealing with 302(a) allocations only,” she said.

Womack said going forward, “we should continue to focus on budget process, not budget outcomes.”

“Outcomes are specific levels of funding, or proposals to reduce the deficit by a certain amount,” he said. “Process is how Congress determines how much to spend, or how to determine what policies to enact to reduce the deficit. I would like to see us modernize our procedures, which will hopefully set up Congress for success, regardless of who is in the majority at any given time.”

A second panel of expert witnesses testified about the current state of the budget and appropriations process, where the breakdown in process tends to occur, and ways to continue the work of the Joint Select Committee.  

Afterwards, in a joint statement, Rep. Derek Kilmer, chair of the Modernization Committee, and the panel’s vice chair, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said “the American people deserve a fully-functioning government, and funding the government is one of our most important jobs.”

“The American people haven’t seen a functioning budget and appropriations process in Congress in more than 20 years. We can do better,” they continued. “This Select Committee is committed to finding solutions to the problems we continue to face as a legislative body, and we are grateful to our colleagues for sharing their expertise, ideas and wisdom today.”

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