Price: Bud­get process within Congress will need over­haul

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Price, who is poised to be­come part of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Cab­i­net, said ten­sions be­tween Congress and the White House could be less­ened if law­mak­ers could fig­ure out how to write and stick to their bud­get.

The Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can and physi­cian, whom Mr. Trump has tapped to be his health sec­re­tary, said Congress should write a two-year bud­get and should re­lease its blue­print be­fore the White House, re­claim­ing its “power of the purse” while at the same time re­liev­ing the an­nual strug­gle to pass all dozen spend­ing bills.

“Tim­ing may seem like a small dis­tinc­tion, but the cur­rent sce­nario — where Congress is es­sen­tially re­spond­ing to the pres­i­dent’s bud­get — is com­pletely back­ward and an­ti­thet­i­cal to the Con­sti­tu­tion’s goal and frame­work,” he said at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, an in­flu­en­tial D.C.-based think tank.

He said bud­gets should be eas­ier to read, and he said the U.S. comp­trol­ler gen­eral, who is in charge of the chief watch­dog Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice, should de­liver an an­nual ad­dress to Congress on the fis­cal chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try.

Un­der cur­rent rules, Congress is sup­posed to com­plete a bud­get by April 15 each year, and the spend­ing com­mit­tees then use that broad blue­print to write 12 ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills dol­ing out the money by Sept. 30.

In re­al­ity, Congress never meets ei­ther dead­line, and over the last 40 years that’s spawned a series of shut­down show­downs and some 173 stop­gap bills to keep the govern­ment run­ning while law­mak­ers ar­gue.

Sev­eral times even that’s failed, and the govern­ment has gone into a par­tial shut­down — in­clud­ing, most re­cently, in 2013.

“It’s a process marked by missed dead­lines, by crises and dead­lock,” said Stu­art M. Stevens, a se­nior fel­low for eco­nomic stud­ies at Brook­ings.

Mr. Price said the chaos bub­bled to the sur­face in the past elec­tion, as Mr. Trump rode a wave of pop­ulist angst over D.C. dys­func­tion to the White House.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple are fully aware that govern­ment as we know it is not work­ing well, and they want to shake up the sys­tem,” he said.

He said that starts with rein­ing in spend­ing. Au­to­matic spend­ing on health en­ti­tle­ments and So­cial Se­cu­rity will soon ac­count for three-quar­ters of the an­nual bud­get, so Mr. Price said Congress should cre­ate a com­mis­sion, akin to the “BRAC” com­mis­sion that ex­am­ines mil­i­tary base clo­sures, to ex­am­ine whether some manda­tory pro­grams should be tossed back into the dis­cre­tionary side of the ledger so Congress can re­visit the spend­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“In each of these in­stances, Congress — the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives — would have a say in the treat­ment of our au­to­matic spend­ing pro­grams,” he said.

For months Mr. Price and Se­nate Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael B. Enzi, Wy­oming Repub­li­can, have urged Congress to con­sider the first bi­par­ti­san over­haul of the bud­get process since 1974.

Democrats have sig­naled they’re open to at least one pil­lar of their pro­pos­als — bud­get­ing for two years in­stead of just one, so there is more time for over­sight of how the money is spent.

“We ought to see how it works, and re-eval­u­ate it at a later date,” Mr. Price said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.