October 21, 2014

Regular Budget Process Can Help Resolve Conflicting Priorities

  • The federal budget process is a mixture of rules, timelines and norms that work together to influence policy decisions. It shapes how the...

While the House and Senate have each passed their own budget resolutions for the coming fiscal year, Congress now needs to move the regular budget process forward through conference committee negotiations aimed at producing a compromise plan.

Concord Coalition Co-Chair Sam Nunn and Pete Domenici, a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, make the case for relying on “regular order” in a recent guest column in The Hill. The former senators urge House and Senate leaders to appoint the conferees as soon as possible.

“Ultimately, we must enact changes to preserve, adjust and strengthen the major entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” Nunn and Domenici write. “We must also enact fundamental tax reform that raises revenues by cutting back on the trillion dollars of annual tax breaks that are essentially government subsides run through the tax code.

“The regular budget process is designed to resolve such conflicting priorities. It is broken because it is ignored.”

Failure to use the regular budget process in recent years has had a high price: “debt-ceiling crises, ‘fiscal cliffs,’ threats of government shutdowns, complex appropriations negotiations and other sorts of chaotic melodrama — all of which has confused and angered the general public and left Congress widely demeaned.”

The use of regular order and the need for comprehensive, bipartisan fiscal reform were also discussed last week when the Peter G. Peterson Foundation convened its fourth annual fiscal summit in Washington.

The summit brought together elected officials, business leaders and policy experts, with a keynote conversation featuring former President Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.