How to Get Congress to Do Its Most Basic Job

Feb 21 2018

Congress may have agreed on a massive two-year budget deal this month, but the government is still running on a short-term spending bill through March 23. Earlier this week, USA Today’s Deirdre Shesgreen highlighted the costs of continued budgetary dysfunction.

One small example: “At the National Institutes of Health, when Congress starts a new fiscal year with a CR instead of a full-year budget, the agency automatically shaves 10% off federal grants it has awarded to scientists across the country” to make sure it will have enough money at the end of the year to fund new research.

Shesgreen also touches on a few proposals to fix the budget process, including:

  • The formation of a bipartisan congressional “super committee” to recommend reforms
  • A bill that would automatically provide for short-term funding of the government, but with spending cuts, if Congress hasn’t passed a regular appropriations bill
  • A bill that would hold back lawmakers’ pay if they don’t pass a budget and appropriations bill on time (which they haven’t done since 1997)
  • Another bill that would keep Congress from leaving Washington on scheduled breaks if lawmakers haven’t adopted a budget.

Other proposals that have been floated in the past include a shift to biennial budgeting, which some experts have said would be more efficient and could result in fewer fiscal fights.

Each idea has its critics. But now that Congress is getting close to resolving its latest budget battles, maybe it can turn to the broken process that makes those battles so costly.