Writing in the Washington Times, Congressional Institute President Mark Strand says that retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan can add to his legacy by supporting comprehensive budget reforms through the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform. Ryan supported the creation of this committee, and as a former House Budget Chairman knows better than most how dysfunctional the process has become.
In fact, the legislative language establishing the committee made clear that it has a different purpose form the 2011 Supercommittee, which was not successful. From the oped:
Instead of being charged with ending deficit spending and bloated budgets, the Joint Select Committee will make recommendations for changing how budgets are made. This focus on procedural outcomes instead of fiscal ones is an important distinction from the 2011 Supercommittee. It also means the Joint Select Committee has a strong shot at success.
Strand has written before about measures the Joint Committee could take that would represent meaningful change but would, at the same time, be reasonable in terms of what’s possible. From an oped that published recently in The Hill:
Two significant changes Joint Committee members could look at are moving to a two-year budget process and changing the start of the fiscal year to Jan. 1. A two-year budget would give authorizing committees and Executive Branch agencies and departments greater certainty about funding levels. It also will let Congress exercise more effective oversight.
Over the last four decades, continuing resolutions and omnibuses have dominated the budget process leading White Houses to negotiate with congressional leadership So if the White House can wait and hash things out with leaders, it has no incentive to work with authorizing committees, which have the ability to hold the Executive Branch accountable.
In the Washington Times piece, Strand also addresses earmarks, writing that they can be valuable so long as they’re reinstated as part of larger budget reforms. From the oped:
Too many members feel disconnected from the legislative process. Being able to secure earmarks would give more lawmakers a voice in the process and give them a vested interest in fighting for passage of bills instead of watching them get blown up by a vocal minority. It would also be a good way to jump start the long-neglected authorization process.
The Joint Committee will hold its first hearing tomorrow. We look forward to hearing ideas from the Members who sit on this panel and hope that it achieves meaningful success.
Read the full Washington Times oped here.