Chairman Womack Opening Remarks at First Public Hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

Good morning and welcome to the first public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform.

Established by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, our panel of 16 members is charged with the task of significantly reforming the budget and appropriations process.

Prior to this hearing, our panel has met twice to start the conversation and identify the problems.

While this select committee is comprised of a diversity of political thought, we have clearly shared a common goal from the start.

We believe that the current process is not working, and reform is long overdue.

Perhaps the most visible sign of dysfunction is that Congress has not followed regular order for the budget process for more than 20 years.

Fiscal year 1995 was the last time Congress passed a budget conference agreement, followed by all of the separate appropriations bills, before the beginning of the fiscal year.

Since then, it has become commonplace for Congress to rely on short-term funding measures and continuing resolutions in order to avoid government shutdowns. And even those efforts have not always been successful.

It is our job to keep the government’s lights on, and we have failed to do so five times.

The most important role given to Congress under the Constitution is the power of the purse. This panel is charged with ensuring we can fulfill this essential duty.

It is no mistake that our Constitution begins in Article I by describing the powers and role of the legislative branch.

And I believe that any proposals of this panel should affirm the distinct role intended by our Founding Fathers. Congress should always be at the center of deciding budget and spending issues for our nation.

While respecting the role of the other two branches of government, any recommendations from this committee should reflect improvements to the congressional process rather than offer prescriptions for specific budgetary outcomes that benefit Republicans or Democrats.

Our goal is to ensure a framework that works regardless of what party holds the majority in either chamber of Congress.

And it is my hope that we can come to agreement on recommendations and ultimately develop legislation that significantly reforms the budget and appropriations process.

If we can design a better budget process to allow Congress to more effectively put forward its proposals, the budgetary outcomes will ultimately be returned to the American people through elections.

While the Bipartisan Budget Act requires that our panel come up with solutions by November 30, I believe that we can and should get to agreement on solutions sooner.

So in the coming days and weeks, it is important that we quickly and thoughtfully move through our work.

As we identify possible solutions, I urge my colleagues to bring up proposals that encourage and incentivize the completion of budget and appropriations work on time.

In recent years, there have been four 2-year budget agreements. Our work should build on this trend, developing an overarching framework for Congress and ensuring certainty for funding decisions earlier.

I look forward to today’s discussion with experts on the advantages and disadvantages of various fixes.

Today, we have two esteemed witnesses to help us talk through ideas for solutions.

I am pleased to welcome Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was appointed as director of the Congressional Budget Office in 2003 and led the agency for nearly three years. He has served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, and he is currently president of the American Action Forum.

Also joining us is Martha Coven, who previously served at the Office of Management and Budget and at the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama Administration. Prior to her work in the Executive Branch, she spent several years at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. She is currently a Lecturer and Visiting Professor at Princeton University.

Thank you, and with that, I yield to my co-chair, Ms. Lowey.