NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reforming Federal Budget Process

October 3, 1997

Critics say Congress is far from adept at producing a timely federal budget and sticking to it. At times, they note, it even breaks its own laws.

  • Although the 1974 Budget Reform and Impoundment Control Act specified that all bills to fund next year's programs be passed by June 15, it has never finished that work on time.
  • In fact, it has only passed all 13 appropriations bills once by October 1 -- the start of the next fiscal year -- and this year it has passed only three.
  • Fully half of the budget goes to more than 260 programs which are automatically funded without a single vote by Congress.
  • Critics say the budget reconciliation process allows huge pork-barrel spending projects to be slipped into the package secretly and often with no debate.

Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would set up a new budgetary system and make it enforceable.

It would make spending limits set at the beginning of the process binding. Congress could exceed them only by a two-thirds vote. And if Congress and the White House could not agree on these limits upfront, spending would simply continue at the previous year's levels.

Source: Editorial, "Washington's Budget Subterfuge," Investor's Business Daily, October 3, 1997.


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