Co-Chair Womack's Opening Remarks at Third 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 third public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform.
The most important role given to Congress under Article I of the Constitution is the power of the purse. Our panel is charged with ensuring we can fulfill this essential duty.
Long before we began our work, there was bipartisan agreement that the current process for completing this basic function of government needs substantial improvement.
And during our hearings so far, we have identified some of the main challenges with the current budget process.
Today’s discussion will be more focused on the opening piece in the process: the annual budget resolution.
As designed by the 1974 Budget Act, the budget resolution was intended to help Congress govern effectively. Unfortunately, the budget resolution as we know it today is often associated with government dysfunction and consistently-missed statutory deadlines.
There even seems to be confusion from members – in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle – about the value of even doing a budget resolution each year.
This apathy was clearly exemplified just two weeks ago in the House Budget Committee during our Members’ Day hearing – a required forum and formal opportunity for members to present their budget ideas for fiscal year 2019.
Aside from members of the Budget Committee, that forum was only utilized by one member.
While I was disappointed by the lack of participation, it was a sobering illustration of the budget’s need for our Select Committee to succeed.
During today’s conversation, I am hopeful that we can start determining ways to make the budget more useful to members of Congress and encourage engagement in the process.
I also look forward to talking about ways to make the budget resolution more realistic as a governing document, ensuring that it can be effectively enforced.
Even though today is about the budget resolution, we cannot ignore the fact that the appropriations process is inextricably linked.
The sooner that a budget resolution is passed in final form, the less likely Congress will have to rely on an omnibus or a continuing resolution.
However, as both an appropriator and as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I recognize that we must be honest and ask ourselves whether the modern Congress will ever be able to successfully process 12 individual appropriations bills in one year.
This morning, to add to our conversations on this important topic, we welcome several experts who have studied the budget and appropriations process extensively.
Joining today’s discussion, we have the President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Maya MacGuineas.
Jim Capretta is here from the American Enterprise Institute, where he serves as a resident fellow and the Milton Friedman Chair. Jim brings a wealth of experience from his time at OMB and as a Senate Budget Committee staffer.
Bill Dauster also joins us today, bringing his unique perspective as a 30-year Senate staffer and the author of a book on Budget Process Law.
Finally, offering an outside academic’s view, we have Joseph White, a political science professor from Case Western University.
Thank you, and with that, I yield to my co-chair, Ms. Lowey, for her brief opening remarks.