Joint Committee and Budget Process Reform

Address questions about budget process reform to Charles S. Konigsberg, publisher of FedWeb.com, who served as Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs at OMB, General Counsel at Senate Finance Committee, Minority Chief Counsel at Senate Rules Committee, and Staff Attorney at Senate Budget Committee.  ckonigsberg@federalbudgetgroup.com.

About the Joint Committee

  • As called for in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Congress has launched a new “Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform.”
  • Congressional leaders have appointed 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats from each chamber:
    • House Republicans:  Budget Chair Womack (R-AR); Rules Chair Sessions (R-TX); Woodall (R-GE); and Arrington (R-TX).
    • House Democrats: Appropriations Ranking Lowey (D-NY); Budget Ranking Yarmuth (D-KY); Roybal-Allard (D-CA); and Kilmer (D-WA).
    • Senate Republilcans:  Vice Chair of Rep. Conf. Blunt (R-Mo.); Perdue (R-Ga.);  Lankford (R-Okla.); and Ernst (R-Iowa).
    • Senate Democrats: Whitehouse (D-RI);  Bennet (D-CO); Brian Schatz (D-HA); and Hirono (D-HA).
  • The bipartisan committee is co-chaired by Steve Womack (R-AR) and Nita Lowey (D-NY).

Latest News from the Joint Committee 

  • April 17, 2018:  Joint Committee holds first hearing.
    • Notable comment from co-chair Nita Lowey (D-NY):  “The root cause of our current situation has much more to do with deep policy disagreements, often over issues that shouldn’t be part of appropriations bills and a lack of political will,” Lowey said. “Procedural reforms alone are insufficient, but perhaps an improved process could facilitate reaching and implementing agreements when there is the will to do so.”
    • Democrats Lowey, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Michael Bennet called for changing the way Congress handles the debt ceiling.
    • Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said the appropriations process has “clear issues with the deadline and structures,” and suggested moving to a biennial process–a proposal certain to be strongly opposed by most Members of the Appropriations Committees. He also raised concerns about the practice of voting on spending bills in the full Appropriations Committee before amendments are offered and voted on.
    • Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo) said he wanted to avoid final spending bills determined as part of an omnibus process that puts “four members of Congress” and about “a dozen staffers” in a position to make “way too many decisions in way too closed an environment.”
    • Testimony from Martha Coven, a Associate Director in the Obama OMB, proposed three key changes, including moving from a fiscal year to a calendar year schedule, ending debt ceiling brinkmanship, and reserving the budget reconciliation process for “fiscally responsible legislation” that doesn’t cut taxes or increase spending.
    • Testimony from former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, suggested biennial budgeting, raising the debt limit automatically in the House when Congress adopts its budget resolution, and moving the budget resolution from a concurrent resolution to a joint resolution that must be signed into law.
    • Opening remarks from Chairman Womack.
    • You Tube video of hearing.
  • March 8, 2018:  first meeting held, with some discussion reportedly being given to shifting the start of the fiscal year from October 1 to January 1.
    • Background:  The fiscal year used to begin July 1, due to Congress’ long summer recesses to avoid sweltering DC heat prior to air conditioning.  The 1974 Budget Act provided more time, shifting the start of the fiscal year to October 1.  It is not unlikely that Congress will now move the fiscal year to January 1, given the plethora of continuing resolutions (CRs).

Guide to Budget Process Reform

How the Budget Process Works: in a Nutshell

Discretionary vs. Mandatory Spending Explained

Key Budget Process Components: 

Links to Key Budget Process Reform Proposals:

Other Resources on Budget Process Reform