Anyone who has followed Congress over the last twenty years knows that things have been pretty dysfunctional. While I believe our Founding Fathers intended for the Legislative Branch to be deliberative, I think they would be troubled by how broken things have become.
One of the top drivers of the dysfunction is the budget and government funding process. Did you know that the last time Congress passed a budget and all twelve government funding bills on time was 1994?
Instead, we have found ourselves in a very dangerous cycle of governing from one funding crisis to the next. At the same time, two-thirds of federal spending is on autopilot as the national debt and federal spending continues to grow. We must do better.
I am tired of just talking about how the process is broken. We need less talk and more solutions, so I introduced the Protecting Our Children’s Future Act. I chose this title because getting our budgeting and spending right really is all about the future of our country.
Our legislation reforms the Congressional budget process to make things work again. Just as important, it lays out a process that would make it easier to cut spending and reduce the deficit.
First, our bill moves to a biennial budget timeline. This means that the budget and funding bills would cover two years instead of just one. This would allow Congressional committees to spend more time overseeing how money is spent, and it will create fewer opportunities for budgetary holdups.
Second, the bill subjects all government funding bills to the reconciliation process. This would result in just a 51-vote majority being needed for passage in the Senate if funding bills stay within the budget. President Donald Trump has proposed some major cuts to federal spending over the last two budget cycles. Unfortunately, Democrats have held many of these cuts hostage with a filibuster. Our bill would end this practice.
Third, our bill puts in place a “No Budget, No Pay” provision for all Members of Congress. Members of Congress would not be paid until a budget passed out of the House and Senate. American families must have a budget. If Congress fails to do so, then we should not be paid.
Fourth, we need a budget timeline that more accurately reflects the calendar. For example, the current time frame expects a newly elected President to submit their budget proposal right after being sworn in. Instead of the fiscal year beginning in October, we would start the calendar on January 1 each year. Our bill would make the process much more realistic and simplistic.
Fifth, the bill shifts most mandatory spending to discretionary. This would take all spending other than Social Security retirement benefits, Medicare, TRICARE, and veteran programs off autopilot. Congress cannot do its most important job to allocate federal resources if two-thirds of the budget is outside the spending process.
Finally, the bill moves to zero-based budgeting. All programs and expenditures would have to be justified by agencies from the ground up at the beginning of each budget cycle. No longer would a program or agency be assumed an automatic increase. Every taxpayer dollar would have to be justified.
If you are like me, you probably think these changes sound pretty commonsense. Well, they are. We need to stop making things so confusing and complicated and just use a little more commonsense.
By doing so, we can rein in federal spending, reduce the national debt, and create a more efficient federal government. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support the Protecting Our Children’s Future Act, and let’s make Congress work again.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.