Lessons Learned from Budget Process Hearings: Budget Process Reform Will Not Solve Budget Problems
The House Budget Committee recently held a series of hearings to examine reforms to the congressional budget process. While the Republicans’ goal was to find changes to the budget procedures that would solve their budget stalemate, the budget process did not cause the problem; the current budget impasse comes from deep differences on policy and Republican unwillingness to compromise. While there are undoubtedly improvements that can be made to any complex process, adjustments to the budget process will not change political dynamics and Tea Party intransigence. Republican witnesses reinforced the message that there is no process reform that will solve current budget problems.
Philip G. Joyce, University of Maryland School of Public Policy (May 25, 2016) –
“Chairman Nussle believed that most of the necessary tools that the Congress needed already existed: ‘Before you search for new budget procedures to “fix” the current process, actually give the current process a try. Prove that Congress and the president can follow the current process and rules before you decide that a new process or rule will somehow do the trick.’ ” (prepared testimony)
“I wouldn't say it is an example of a broken budget process because I think you actually have the tools available to you to affect mandatory spending.”
Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, American Action Forum (June 15, 2016) –
“No reform to the Budget Act or statutory spending cap or sequester can replace the needed debate on what should be a realistic or fair retirement age, or what is the proper federal role in seniors’ health care delivery.” (prepared testimony)
Barry Anderson, former budget official (June 22, 2016) –
“The rules are there to enforce the action on the part of the Congress, both the Senate and the House. So I think having the rules…have actually been remarkably effective, particularly if you take it over a longer period of time.”
Democratic witnesses agreed that the existing budget process has worked and can work when Congress has the will to govern.
Stan Collender, Qorvis MSLGROUP (May 25, 2016) –
“You will accomplish nothing by changing the congressional budget process unless what you’re trying to do is to fool voters into thinking that you’re actually accomplishing something.”
Lily Batchelder, NYU School of Law (June 9, 2016) –
“Second, budget process reform is not in my view the answer. Deficit reduction will instead require bipartisan dialogue, compromise, and tough policy choices.”
Harry Stein, Center for American Progress (June 15, 2016) –
“…it is political polarization, not the budget process, that stands in the way of other attempts to change fiscal policy.”