Think the only thing happening in Congress is impeachment? Wrong! There’s one shining example of bipartisanship – the U.S. House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Congressional Institute President Mark Strand wrote about the committee in The Fulcrum, praising the panel for its hard work this year and commending the House for extending the committee’s work through next year.
The Committee was created under the rules package that was one of the first votes lawmakers cast in January. The panel was to issue a report by the end of this year and wrap up its work by February 2020. Instead, the committee members have impressed their colleagues and House leadership and given rise to hope that some antiquated and dysfunctional operations of the U.S. House could be phased out.
Strand wrote in his opinion piece:
For years, Congress has fallen short of its budget responsibility. The process has become a farce with continuing resolutions — which are supposed to act as short-term patches allowing the government to run while Congress continues debate — acting as budgeting tools. The 35-day shutdown that ended in January should be all the evidence and incentive lawmakers need to reform that process.
It has been 25 years since the last time Congress completed a budget on time — meaning the 12 separate bills designed to provide funding for all discretionary programs were passed and signed by the start of the fiscal year. Since then, CRs and catchall spending packages have become chronic, and have come to be seen as an acceptable way of doing business.
This is especially timely as budget and appropriations chiefs in the House and Senate are still looking at how to fund the government past the stopgap funding bill that was passed last month. That bill gets us to Dec. 20. With partisan flare-ups lurking in the wings, lawmakers should be looking for ways to remove as many political considerations from the budget as possible.
That’s where congressional reform comes into play. The Congressional Institute has long advocated for biennial budgeting and other significant reforms as measures to make Congress effective. From the oped:
Partisan gridlock certainly plays an enormous role in this, but there are institutional changes that have nothing to do with politics that will help modernize both the House and the Senate. … We have looked at a number of issues including fixing the authorization process to restore checks and balances, instituting biennial budgeting, changing the start of the federal fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1, and even restoring earmarks both as a legislative tool and to shift funding decisions from the executive branch back to the legislative branch — where the Constitution says they belong.
Want to see more? Read the full oped here.