Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not Loving the Budget Process

About three years back I wrote a piece here (no, I have not memorized all 650 of them, but I know what I thought) about the absurdity of the government being tied up in one-year spending bills that Congress provides, to authorize funding for the remainder of the fiscal year not already funded through continuing resolutions.

I wish you would read it, since it needs to be read, and often.  In that piece, I suggested that an economically sane president, which I think we have now, press for a law implementing a five-year budget for the Federal government, as opposed to the one-year nonsense we have now.

How much of the congressional year is occupied by the budget process, including the debt ceiling and the hacking through continuing resolutions over and over and threatening to shut down a government that ought to be shut down periodically for fresh air?

Answer: lots.

Congress simply spends far too little time in constituent service, and far too much time in DC doing things that don't need to be done, or need to be done as often.

Right now, for example, there is a big battle in Congress about a budget for a fiscal year that ends in less than five months!  President Trump has already said that he gave up pushing some issues that he campaigned on, because they're going to get taken up in the budget bills for the year starting October 1st, and those bills will be starting debate pretty soon anyway.  Without 60 votes in the Senate, he can't get them passed.

There is nothing magic about a one-year budget cycle, and there is something distinctly depressing and mundane about a budget process that annually results in unending debate and 54 continuing resolutions to get us through the year.  That needs to stop.

So ... the solution from this column is either an act of Congress or a Constitutional amendment, that obliges Congress to pass a quinquennial budget on the 0 and 5 years, funding the Federal government for the subsequent five years.  If they are unable to do so, then every member of that Congress receives a lifetime ban from serving in Congress, other Federal employment, or certification to lobby Congress on any issue representing any organization, foreign or domestic.

Like it?

I want the five years, because I want a &$%#@ budget and I want it to last.  We can give Congress some general capability to influence how that budget is spent, but elections have consequences.  When the nation elects a chief executive, we expect that he or she ought to be able to run the executive branch.  Congress can authorize spending for the Departments and agencies, but it should be at a relatively high level with few details.

I want five years, but I'll settle for four.  But "one" is not an answer, particularly when "one year" actually means "four months or so, maybe a few weeks more" because we run on those CRs all the time.

The process stinks, and it's too difficult to get to any reasonable point.  Let's fix it.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

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