Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg: With Order Restored, Let’s Act

The budget conference committee is holding its second hearing this morning as the conferees continue to try and work out a compromise between the House and Senate budgets. Today, CRFB board member and former Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and former Senator Judd Gregg, both who served as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, stress in an article in The Hill the importance of using this opportunity to act and resolve our open budget questions.

Brinksmanship and last minute solutions have prevailed over the last few years, and it isn't hard to see why that has been the case - the Congress has been operating without a budget. We may have moved past the government shutdown and the debt ceiling for now, but those hurdles will return soon, which is why it is so important to deal with issues now:

The Constitution granted Congress the authority to tax and spend, and they have certainly exercised it. But it wasn’t until 1974 that “The Budget Act” established the House and Senate Committees on the Budget and finally created what we now refer to as regular order in order to manage these resources in a manner worthy of a great nation. Under the law, each house of Congress would draft and pass their own budget resolutions and then a conference committee would meet to work out the differences.  Reconciliation legislation could also be utilized to enforce the spending and revenue levels set out in the budget resolution.

Unfortunately, this established process hasn’t always yielded results in today’s divided Washington. That is one of the reasons we came together in 2009 to introduce legislation to establish a Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action to put Congress back on a path to fiscal sustainability. That effort eventually led to the Simpson-Bowles Commission which we were both privileged to serve on. Since then, there have been sporadic attempts at dealing with the debt as Congress has engaged in habitual fiscal cliff-jumping.

Now nearly 40 years after the Budget Act, Congress has once again returned to regular order and convened a budget resolution conference committee to address our growing debt. We cannot let another year pass without at least taking some common sense steps to reduce our debt, beginning with a workable federal budget.

A couple of weeks ago, CRFB called for the budget committee to meet six important criteria in the final budget agreement. Conrad and Gregg also encourage the conference commmittee to put out a budget resolution that meets three fiscal goals, all of which were also included in CRFB's list:

  1. Puts debt on downward path as share of economy, like the House Republican, Senate Democratic, and White House fiscal year 2014 budgets
  2. Replaces the across-the-board sequester cuts with targeted deficit reduction that offsets any changes
  3. Establishes a fast-track process for entitlement and tax reform to strengthen Social Security and Medicare and make our tax code simpler and more competitive

Finding an agreement that is acceptable to both parties and is fiscally responsible will no doubt be difficult, but it will only get harder the longer we wait. Lawmakers need to take full advantage of this chance to come together.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.