Effective Budget Enforcement

Although various enforcement provisions exist under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, House rules, and other laws, they have proven to be unnecessarily complex and ultimately ineffective in implementing Federal budgets and achieving budgetary goals. The failure of budget enforcement mechanisms has at least two major consequences: it significantly reduces the effectiveness of the budget resolution and congressional budgetary procedures resulting in uncontrollable fiscal policy, and it sacrifices some of Congress’s constitutional “power of the purse,” ceding greater authority to the red octagon iconExecutive Branch. A budget left unenforced is not an effective budget.

This Wednesday, the House Budget Committee will hold a hearing to examine how Congress can more effectively enforce the budget. Topics of discussion will include:

Current Rules Aren’t Working

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 has several enforcement provisions, and Congress has adopted additional rules and statutes over the years (See chart). Most of these have failed, however, due to poor design, needless overlap, or because they can be easily waived or circumvented. The result has been a cluster of ineffective budgetary rules that only make the budget process and enforcing the budget more complicated.

Developing Better Budget Rules

Enforcement regimes can be strengthened by streamlining rules, plugging loopholes, and changing defaults and incentives. Congressional authority and budgeting would be far better served by a tighter set of enforcement measures that work than by a web of rules that do not. Some mechanisms we will explore include prioritizing budget rules, best practices of enforcing budget rules, and statutory versus congressional budget enforcement.