With debt and spending out of control, the good news is that the House Budget Committee is taking important steps toward focusing Congress on its most basic duty: budgeting. By speedily passing several budget process reform bills, Chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI) and others on his committee are moving Congress in the right direction—toward controlling spending and increasing accountability and transparency in the federal budget process.
The fundamental problem with the Senate’s refusal to pass a budget for more than 1,000 days is a lack of fiscal discipline, which results in bulging deficits and debt. While the House adopted a strong budget under Ryan’s leadership last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D–NV) disinterest in a budget resolution has enabled uncontrolled spending and borrowing in Washington. This translates to a lack of governing.
As Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen explains:
The congressional budget has three principal roles: (1) to control spending, (2) to limit the size and scope of government, and (3) to compel choices among governing priorities. In short, budgeting truly is governing. […] the budget process can provide better tools and practices to move Congress in the right direction.
Four of the 10 planned budget process reform bills have already passed the House. Among these, two would enhance transparency by helping measure the cost of legislation (the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act) and requiring Congressional Budget Office analysis of the economic impact of major legislation (the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act). The Baseline Reform Act, passed last week, targets one of the greatest enablers of hidden spending increases: the automatic inflation increases to discretionary spending baselines. Just today, a bipartisan bill passed with an additional tool to restrain spending on line-item veto items and rescissions.
The leadership by Ryan’s Budget Committee on budget process reforms is a commendable step to get Congress started off right in the new year. Congress still needs to find the will to execute its duty to budget and, therefore, govern.