Writing at The Hill, former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) offers six changes that he suggests would make the congressional budget process better and “lead to a radical improvement in our federal fiscal future”:
1. Make the process bipartisan. The budget reported out of committee should need two-thirds support — and then should not be subject to change on the Senate floor except for a limited number of amendments offered by party leaders and requiring 60 votes to pass.
2. Change the makeup of the Budget Committee. Members should only be from the Appropriations and Finance Committees, so they’re vested in the passage of the budget. As things stand now, the Budget Committee doesn’t have the legislative power to execute the blueprint it passes and those other committees “consider the Budget Committee as interlopers threatening their turf.”
3. Look at numbers relative to the size of the economy. The budget “would initially set a maximum number for federal spending as a percentage of GDP and a floor number for the size of revenues as a percent of GDP. It would further set a number for the maximum amount of debt as percentage of GDP.”
4. Let the budget deal with the big drivers of our fiscal problems. Social Security, Medicare and other safety net programs make up the majority of federal spending, but the current budget process doesn’t really address them. More flexible “reconciliation-type” instructions would allow the budget to address entitlements and taxes.
5. The Budget Committee should look at areas in need of reform. Special committees “would report restructuring approaches for specific areas” such as Defense or the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposals from those committees “would not be amendable and would be passed on up-or-down votes.”
6. Shut down the government if a bipartisan budget doesn’t get passed. Yes, this “would specifically cause the lapsing of payments under Social Security, veterans’ benefits and other politically charged programs.”
Responding to Gregg’s piece on Twitter, budget expert Stan Collender again argued that the problem is more about political will than process: “Sorry but this is tripe. Congress can do all of this now if it wanted to. It definitely doesn’t want to do any of it.”
Read Gregg’s full piece here.