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The Sausage Factory

Eliminate Gridlock, Starting with Budget Reforms

It’s become de rigueur for Congress to wait until the last minute to pass a spending package to keep the government up and running. As usual, there were filibuster threats before the spending package passed – and sadly, that’s been the case no matter which party has been in the majority or minority. There’s just no reason – other than political posturing – that negotiations run up to the line. This year was no different with the final legislation being sent to the White House late in the night for signature into law. There’s a better way to handle this, and, as Congressional Institute President Mark Strand writes in Real Clear Policy, it can begin with budget reforms.

House Budget Chairman Tom Price has developed a working draft of reforms to update and modernize the Budget Act of 1974. Strand writes:

That law requires Congress to enact 12 annual stand-alone spending bills — something that hasn’t been done on time since 1994. Instead, Congress has relied on continuing resolutions and omnibus appropriation bills in order to avoid government shutdowns. The failure to enact the individual authorization and spending bills means that Congress has very little control of how the money is being spent and that wasteful and useless programs remain on the books. This, in turn, makes both the executive and legislative branches unaccountable to the taxpayers who foot the bills, undermining lawmakers’ credibility with their constituents. Reforming the budget process so that it works without gimmicks and stop-gap measures would be a tremendous legacy for Chairman Price.

Certainly straight budgeting instead of “gimmicks and stop-gap measures” meets the challenge issued by voters who are sending President-elect Donald Trump to Washington on his promise to “drain the swamp.” The final spending measure to keep the government running is actually a continuing resolution (CR), which extends funding until April. Strand writes that the CR “represents a failed budget process. This is the kind of thing the voters were rejecting … The American people think of one word when they look at Washington: broken.”

The issue isn’t just a messy budget process, but rather inefficiency in Congress as a whole. Strand writes:

Gridlock in our Congress will continue to result in the transfer of legislative authority, guaranteed to Congress by the Constitution, to a power-grabbing executive branch. … Congress can kick-start the process by reforming itself so that it is more accountable to the people. In doing so, Congress will address important issues that have been held hostage to polarization and gridlock.

Go here to read the full op-ed.

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