Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., urged members of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform to consider moving Congress to a biennial appropriations system, which would provide funding for two years instead of one and allow lawmakers more time to develop and scrutinize government spending. Enzi has led bipartisan efforts in the Senate Budget Committee to explore and reform the budget process.
“Our budget and appropriations process is clearly in need of reform,” Enzi said. “The appropriations process has rarely worked as intended, but the annual spending process will never truly improve as long as we are willing to hold it hostage to larger ideological or political battles.”
Enzi noted that in all but four years between 1977 and 2018, continuing resolutions were enacted because of the failure of Congress to complete all of the regular appropriations bills before the beginning of the new fiscal year. In fact, Congress has had more than 180 continuing resolutions signed into law over the last four decades, and in this fiscal year alone, five were required. He said while these short-term continuing resolutions keep the government funded, by the time Congress can agree on how to appropriate money for a given year, the result is a massive omnibus bill that funds the entire government.
“One of the most important things we could do to fix this process would be to move to a biennial appropriations system,” Enzi said. “By providing funding for two years instead of one, Congress would immediately make the consideration of regular appropriations measures more likely. Instead of subjecting itself to a nearly perpetual annual cycle of developing and attempting to pass 12 appropriation bills for the next fiscal year, Congress could spread these bills out over two years, allowing more time to develop and scrutinize them. Not only would a biennial appropriations process help Congress execute its power of the purse, it would also benefit federal agencies. They would have more time to devote to developing and executing long-term strategies and would finally have some certainty in their budgets.”
Last Congress, Enzi introduced legislation that would continue the budget resolution process on an annual cycle, in order to allow for topline adjustments and reconciliation instructions as events warrant, but would move toward a biennial appropriations process. Under such a proposal, appropriations would continue to be divided among 12 different bills, six of which would be adopted in the first session of Congress, six of which would be adopted in the second session.