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Wittman’s Weekly: Budget Process 101

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Washington, February 15, 2020 | comments

Our nation’s debt is out of control – almost $23 trillion dollars. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that during the next 10 years, federal debt held by the public will surge from 81 percent to 98 percent of GDP — the highest debt level since just after World War II and more than twice the average level of the past 50 years. This week, we received the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The President’s Budget included important deficit reduction measures - $4.6 trillion between 2021-2030. I agree that we need to take a hard look at the duplicative and outdated programs plaguing our federal government. However, the President’s Budget is more of a policy agenda – and it is indeed Congress that holds the purse strings and therefore must make these tough decisions. It is up to Congress to rein in government spending, fund programs that are working, and cut programs that are not.

The President’s Budget is just the first step in the budget process. What’s next?

February/March – Views and Estimates & Members’ Day Hearing. Authorizing committees assist the Budget Committee by submitting Views and Estimates, which outline authorizing committees’ legislative priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. While not binding, these priorities are taken into consideration during construction of the annual budget resolution.

The Budget Act also requires the Budget Committee to “receive testimony from Members of Congress” in the process of developing the annual concurrent resolution on the budget. This practice, known as Members’ Day, provides all Members of Congress with an open forum to discuss their suggestions for the budget resolution.

April 15th – Adoption of Budget Resolution. The Budget Act sets April 15th as the target date for congressional approval of a budget resolution. Upon adoption by both the House and Senate, the budget resolution is the binding fiscal framework for the subsequent consideration of spending and tax legislation. It is the only legislative vehicle that offers a comprehensive outline of the federal government’s finances, providing a roadmap for Congress to address the nation’s fiscal challenges. Key elements of the budget resolution include:

  • Spending allocations for appropriations and authorizing committees;
  • Federal revenue aggregates;
  • Targets for deficits or surpluses and debt;
  • Reconciliation instructions which can be used to address mandatory spending; and
  • Budget enforcement provisions.
Unfortunately, Congress rarely passes a budget on time which leads to a delayed appropriations process. I have a bill called the No Budget No Pay Act, which requires Congress to pass a budget by April 15 and if they don’t, Members of Congress don’t get a paycheck. This would hold Congress accountable if it doesn’t get the work of the people done. I am committed to fixing our broken budget process, and this year I will be working harder than ever to get us back on track.
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