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Senate Committee Approves Budget Reforms

The Fiscal Times Staff

The Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill that aims to reform the federal government’s budget process. The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act “would provide a more orderly and deliberative budget process focused on long-term fiscal planning,” according to committee chair Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Here’s Whitehouse's summary of what the bill would do:

  • Move the budget resolution to a two-year cycle, while maintaining annual appropriations.
  • Require more involvement from Senate spending and taxing committees, including by requiring detailed spending and revenue plans to better inform budget development.
  • Focus on fiscal sustainability by requiring the budget resolution to establish a debt-to-GDP target backed by a deficit-reducing special reconciliation process to promote adherence to the budget plan.
  • Create a mechanism within the regular budget process to end the brinksmanship surrounding the statutory debt limit by conforming the limit to levels called for in the budget resolution. 
  • Establish an optional new bipartisan budget pathway through which the budget would set a glideslope of deficit reduction that includes health care, revenue levels, and appropriations, and tax expenditures. Such bipartisan budgets would require the support of at least 60 Senators, including at least 15 members of the minority party, and would be considered in the Senate under expedited procedures jointly agreed to by the Majority and Minority Leaders.
  • Provide a more orderly, deliberative process for Senate consideration of budget resolutions that preserves the ability of Senators on both sides of the aisle to offer amendments.
  • Enhance fiscal transparency by requiring that up-to-date tabulations of congressional budget action be publicly posted and that information on the interest effects of authorizing and revenue legislation be included in cost estimates prepared by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The legislation also supports transparency efforts underway at CBO.
  • Require CBO and the Government Accountability Office to regularly review and report to Congress on portfolios of federal spending to help lawmakers make more informed budgetary decisions.

For more on the reform effort, see this letter of support from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and this critical opinion piece in The Hill that says the legislation could be harmful.

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