Senator David Perdue Advocates For New Budget Process Reforms

As Congress rushed to pass a temporary continuing resolution to keep the government operating when the fiscal year begins on Saturday, a group of senators led by Senator David Perdue (R-GA) went to the Senate floor to speak about the breakdown in the budget process that contributed to the failure of Congress to pass appropriations bills in a timely manner and the need for reforms of the budget process. Senator Perdue was joined by Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), Bob Corker (R-TN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Steve Daines (R-MT).

Senator Perdue noted that funding the government should be the primary responsibility of Congress, but Congress has passed all of the appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year only four times in the forty-two years since the Budget Act was enacted in 1974. It has been twenty years since Congress passed all of the appropriations bills on time without the need for a temporary continuing resolution. For the upcoming fiscal year, Congress has only enacted one appropriations bill – the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill – before the beginning of the fiscal year. The Senate has only approved three appropriations bills while the House has passed four appropriations bills.

Source: Sen. David Perdue's office

Senator Lankford suggested establishing an “automatic CR” to continue funding at prior year levels if Congress failed to enact appropriations bills by the beginning of the fiscal year, with reductions in the budget for Congress and the White House. He also discussed the problem of budget gimmicks that are used to increase spending without truly offsetting the cost such as fake CHIMPs (Changes In Mandatory Programs).

Chairman Enzi spoke about the need to do budget process reform to deal with our debt problem, particularly by increasing focus on the 70 percent of the budget that is on autopilot through mandatory spending. He also discussed the need for portfolio budgeting, which is one of the elements of the budget process reform proposal he has put forward to deal with overlapping and duplicative programs.

Senator Corker discussed the need for a mechanism to compel action on policies to address our debt. He noted that Congress passes budget resolutions that call for spending cuts to balance the budget but fails to follow through with the policy actions to make those assumptions a reality. We suggested one option for addressing this problem in our Better Budget Process Initiative paper “Strengthening the Budget Resolution” by requiring the budget resolution to include reconciliation instructions for authorizing committees to report legislation implementing policy changes necessary to achieve the savings assumed in the budget resolution.

Senator Rounds cited the Congressional Budget Office budget projections showing that entitlement programs, primarily Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are the main drivers of our debt but noted that entitlement programs are not reviewed on an annual basis in the appropriations process.

Senator Perdue emphasized the need for fundamental budget process reform. He noted that while budget process reform would not solve the problem with our growing debt, it will not be possible to address the debt without reforming the budget process. He said that reforms should provide a politically neutral process to make decisions in a timely and responsible manner. He has called for a “clean sheet” approach to reforming the budget process based on the following principles:

  • The budget signed by the president should have the enforcement power of a law.
  • The budget should include all spending and all revenue.
  • There should be severe consequences for not completing the funding cycle on time.

We commend Senator Perdue and his colleagues for calling attention to the need for reforms of the budget process and their continuing work on reforms that the Senate can consider. We have published many ideas for reform as part of our Better Budget Process Initiative and look forward to seeing the reforms Senator Perdue and his colleagues put forward.