Congress Must Get Back to Budgeting

For Immediate Release

Despite the growth in the national debt and trillions of dollars in borrowing in the last five years, Congress is increasingly failing to handle one of its core duties – drafting a budget to set federal spending and revenue priorities. For the second year in a row – and the only two times in modern history – neither the House nor Senate Budget Committees have approved a budget plan. Congress looks certain to once again miss the April 15 deadline to adopt a budget resolution. Below is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Congress already had a poor track record when it came to passing a budget. Since 1975, lawmakers have only managed to pass a budget before the statutory deadline on six occasions. But things have gotten worse recently, and now the budget committees can’t even be bothered to do their jobs and propose a plan.

Governing means making choices, and only by budgeting can lawmakers and the public get a clear view of these tradeoffs. Regardless of your policy preferences, it is the highest abdication of responsibility for lawmakers to run the government without a budget.

Government shutdown threats are almost the norm at this point. And when lawmakers do manage to secure a spending deal, they’re often short-term and littered with large giveaways to attract votes, rather than being built upon a budget that serves the country.

It’s long past time to implement budgeting reforms and start taking the process seriously again. It has been encouraging to see some members of Congress put forward smart reforms to the budget process in recent years. But waiting for reform is no excuse to avoid the basic responsibility of budgeting.

Thankfully it looks like a robust economic recovery is around the corner. But the debt this year is projected to reach an all-time high as a share of GDP, the Social Security, Medicare and highway trust funds are headed toward insolvency, and lawmakers continue to refuse to make changes to revenue or spending necessary to pay for non-emergency priorities. With the stakes this high, Congress needs to assert its power of the purse and do its job.


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