House GOP Tackles Budget Reform

by Betsy Woodruff

The GOP members of the House Budget Committee, led by chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.), are touting a new approach to reforming the Congressional budgeting process. The new approach aims to reform how Congress actually creates its budgets, rather than on the specific ways that money is spent.

“The federal budget process is broken,” Ryan told reporters on Wednesday. “Washington stumbles from budget crisis to budget crisis with little or no oversight on how government spends harworking taxpayer dollars.”

Ryan and the 13 Republican members of the committee have inroduced 10 pieces of legislation that, collectively, would create spending controls, enhance oversight, and increase transparency.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.) spoke with National Review Online about the importance of changing how Congress creates the budget, saying that simple procedural reform can lead to significant spending cuts. “Part of the problem in Washington is, there’s no political will to do the right things,” he said. “That’s why I think budgetary process will help fix those problems by putting those boundaries in place to keep Congress from continuing to be irresponsible.”

A few components of the package:

  • Rep. John Campbell (R., Calif.) said that the Spending Control Act — which he co-authored — would keep both overall spending and mandatory (entitlement) spending from growing faster than inflation. Limited automatic cuts will go into effect if spending grows too quickly, motivating Congress to critically re-examine spending on entitlement programs.  
  • Ryan and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, are co-sponsoring a bill that would enable a Constitutional line-item veto by giving Congress a limited time frame to consider specific requests from the president to cut discretionary spending. “The president can take provisions out of appropriations bills, send them back to Congress, Congress has to take a vote in a timely matter, up or down, can’t duck it, can’t filibuster it, can’t amend it, so that we can embarrass pork out of bills,” Ryan said.
  • The Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act would require Congress to produce a budget every two years, allowing more time for oversight of government agencies and programs, said Rep. Reid Ribble (R., Wisc.), the bill’s lead sponsor. “It keeps spending in check just a little bit more, and it gives Congress more time to really look at the value in the spending that Congress approves,” added Stutzman, who said that part of the reason his home state, Indiana, is currently running a surplus under Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is that it creates a budget biennially.
  • To prevent government shutdown, another piece of legislation would create an automatic funding resolution that would give Congress an additional 90 days to come to a compromise on budgeting. The catch? It would require a 1 percent cut in discretionary spending. If Congress still does’t create a budget in that time frame, the legislation provides for another 90 days and another 1 percent spending cut. This could happen up to four times. “The incentive here is obviously to get Congress to be able to complete it work, get it done on time, and get it out the door,” said Rep. James Lanford (R., Okla.), who sponsored the bill. 

“We know we’re not going to get all ten bills passed,” Stutzman said, “but maybe we’ll just get something. We have to start moving things through the process incrementally to start making changes, because its going to happen slowly, it’s not gong to happen in one big package.”

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