Should Congress Switch to a 2-year Budget?
Each budget biennium would be defined as the two consecutive fiscal years beginning on October 1 of any odd-numbered year. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would be required to report to Congress on the impact and feasibility of changing the definition of a fiscal year and the budget process based on that definition to a two-year fiscal period.
ARGUMENT IN FAVOR
If Congress transitions to a two-year biennial budget it will give lawmakers more time for oversight and bring greater transparency to the budgeting and appropriations process. The switch could reduce the likelihood of government shutdowns.
Congress is going to be inefficient and dysfunctional whether they prepare the federal budget two years at a time or not. Not only that, but it is hard to forecast how much tax revenue will be available two years in advance and how it should be spent.
The argument opposed correctly nails that "Congress is going to be inefficient and dysfunctional" regardless of the budget frequency. It attempts to present a forecasting problem that doesn't quite exists. It assumes that we budget every year AND we follow that budget during the allocation process. The budget also doesn't account for the Pentagon's Slush Fund: Overseas Contingency Operations and the problems that it faces.
Constitutionally, we find that Congress is once again shirking their responsibility because it makes campaigning easier. We saw Congress eager to pass the buck to President Obama during TPP talks. You see, if you don't vote for a bad deal (Whether it's TPP or an annual Budget), you can't pay the price at the polls during the next election.
The federal government is comprised of three separate but equal branches with overlapping authority to prevent any individual, or faction from gaining too much power. The Congressional 'power of the purse' should stay an annual function if we ever find ourselves with a President that advocates for an unjust or unpopular war. If Congress is fresh off of a signed two-year budget, they will find themselves with less power to check the Executive.
This bill is designed to shirk responsibility ad give the representative more time to campaign and fund raise.
In an ideal world, our Congress would do a budget every month. This would ensure that our principles of Limited Government stay in the forefront of the American's water cooler discussions. We need more budgetary discussions, more focus on innovation, more talks of how we make government more efficient, more talks about waste, fraud and abuse, not less. This ensures that American public has closer, more responsive representation.
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- If Congress votes on a poor budget, we're stuck with it for two years.
- Most of this discussion, and the bill's aim, is a farce. We're $20,000,000,000,000 in debt, our focus should be on reducing spending and limiting government.
- Most teachers will tell you, giving a tardy student more time just increases their procrastination until the next deadline. Congress will still come down to the wire and still require Continuing Resolutions when they inevitably miss their deadlines
Sponsoring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced this bill to give lawmakers an opportunity to prevent waste and promote efficiency through a greater emphasis on oversight in the budgeting process:
“Voters spoke out in November and they want a change in the way Washington does business. They want Congress to get a handle on the national debt. It’s time that Washington does what every American family has to do: Sit down and figure out what’s working and what isn’t and set spending priorities. This system would increase oversight and reduce wasteful spending, making our federal government more efficient and more accountable to taxpayers.”
Biennial budgets have been criticized for being slow to respond to changes in the government’s fiscal condition. Former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin testified in 2004 that:
“[C]hanging to a two-year cycle could have significant drawbacks. It could diminish the effectiveness of Congressional control of spending in the appropriation process and could make adjusting to rapidly changing budgetary and economic conditions more difficult.”
This bill currently has 16 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. It's predecessor in the 113th Congress was endorsed by 68 members of the U.S. Senate.
Of Note: For more than 70 years biennial budgeting has been a common practice at the state level, but the number of states enacting two-year budgets has fallen from 44 in 1940 to 19 in 2011. Of those states that use biennial budgets, 15 are state legislatures that meet annually while the remaining four are only hold biennial sessions.