Co-Chair Lowey's Opening Remarks at Fourth Public Hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform
As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:
Welcome to our Members’ Day hearing, where we’ll hear from Members of the House and Senate about what should be done to improve the way Congress handles budget and appropriations matters.
There’s no shortage of complaints about the budget process. Budget resolutions are often adopted late, or not at all. Budget rules are routinely waived.
All too often appropriations bills don’t get enacted until the fiscal year is well underway—creating major uncertainties and problems. And appropriations bills get encumbered with all sorts of extraneous legislative riders—which contributes to the controversies and delays.
Changes to the budget process might help reduce some of these problems—and that is our task here. For example, we need to find a way to get agreement on appropriations top lines early in the year, so that the appropriators can get to work filling in the details. We need to find a better way to deal with the debt ceiling—a law that serves no useful purpose but invites brinksmanship that threatens our nation’s credit rating and the health of our economy. And we need to find a way to make our budget resolutions more effective tools for formulating and carrying out budget decisions.
But there are also limits on what can be accomplished with rules changes. Flawed rules and procedures aren’t the root cause of much of what people complain about in budgeting. Rather, the root cause often lies in deep divisions over policy, combined with misplaced priorities, partisanship and polarization. We need to find ways of alleviating those as well.
It’s gratifying and encouraging to see the number of Members participating in this hearing. And we’re particularly honored to have with us the Speaker of the House, as well as the Democratic Leader and the Democratic Whip. I look forward to everyone’s testimony.