After more than two years without a budget and trillions of dollars in red ink, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is once again taking a stand to get Washington to stop its ballooning spending addiction.
Enzi, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, introduced the Biennial Appropriations Act today, which would require Congress and the President to use biennial budgeting. This would allow more oversight and transparency to a process that is often manipulated at the expense of taxpayers, according to Enzi. It would also allow Congress more time to consider individual appropriations bills instead of massive “take it-or-leave it” omnibus bills.
“The budget process in Washington has been broken for decades,” said Enzi. “The sheer size and complexity of the federal budget and the process we have today virtually guarantees that Congress will not consider all of the appropriations bills it is supposed to consider each year. Because of that, we are stuck with continuing resolutions and one massive spending bill at the end of the year to fund the entire government under the threat of a government shutdown. That is never good for the American taxpayer,” said Enzi. “The Wyoming State Legislature uses biennial budgeting. It allows legislators the necessary time to consider the needs of the state and then evaluate how money was allocated. Wyoming’s process works and the federal government could take a page from that process.”
Enzi’s bill would require the President to submit a two-year budget resolution at the beginning of each Congress. Congress would then adopt a budget resolution. Following adoption of a budget resolution, Congress would focus on appropriations bills. Each year Congress would debate the Defense Appropriations bill. However, the other appropriations bills would be split into two groups. The more controversial bills would be debated in the first year of a session of Congress, the non-election year. Measures debated in the first year would include: Agriculture, Labor/Health and Human Services, and Interior. The less controversial bills would be debated in the second year of a session of Congress, the election year. Bills considered in that year include: Legislative Branch Appropriations, Homeland Security, and Financial Services. The bill would also mandate at least one joint oversight hearing with the appropriate authorizing committee and appropriations subcommittee in the off-appropriations year. Enzi said this would force Congress to identify spending priorities and then allocate money with enough time to see the money used as it was intended before the next budget cycle begins.
Because he is such a strong proponent of biennial budgeting, Enzi is a also cosponsor of biennial budgeting legislation introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. That legislation would require all appropriations bills considered in the first year and focus on oversight during the second session.
“Change will not be easy because people have learned how to take advantage of the current system, or just ignored the system and passed extension after extension. Wyoming has figured out a system that works and Washington should follow suit,” said Enzi.