Price Opening Statement: Does Biennial Budgeting Fit in a Rewrite of the Budget Process?

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning and thank you all for being here.

Today’s hearing is part of our ongoing effort at the House Budget Committee to focus time and attention on reforming the Congressional budget process.

To understand the impetus for reform, one need only look at the history of writing budgets under the current process. Deadlines are routinely missed – sometimes deliberately – and appropriations bills are often combined into massive, omnibus measures that give little time for proper review.

All of this is occurring because the budget process is outdated, cumbersome, needlessly complex, and almost impossible to understand. It encourages more government spending by default. And most disturbing, its shortcomings can lead to the erosion of Congress’ power of the purse, further ceding authority to the Executive Branch and diminishing the role of the legislature in our Constitutional framework. The degradation of budgeting impedes our ability to govern responsibly.

These are not conditions that can be cured with a few piecemeal remedies. That is why this committee has called for a wide-ranging, wholesale approach to reforming the budget process – to upend the current system and start over with policies that will enforce budget and fiscal discipline, and reinforce constitutional government.

Early this year, our committee held a hearing on the first principles of budget process reform. In that hearing we discussed many of the challenges we face in this endeavor and the guiding principles that should lead our reform effort. Those included exercising constitutional control to ensure a healthy balance of power between Congress and the Executive; promoting fiscal responsibility; increasing oversight; and developing a better understanding of how much money government programs and policies are actually costing American taxpayers.

Those principles should help guide our consideration of individual budget reform solutions as well.

As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I welcome and encourage anyone who is willing to engage in this conversation and bring ideas to the table. As members of Congress, we have a vested interest in having a budget process that is more easily understood and better equipped to positively inform our broader legislative efforts. The American people have everything to gain from a budget process that forces their elected representatives to govern in a more efficient, effective and accountable manner.

So, we all have reason to participate in this effort, and that is why I am grateful to have our colleague Congressman Reid Ribble here today to discuss his biennial budgeting proposal.

Biennial budgeting as a concept is not a new idea. Indeed, it has been – in one form or another – part of the budget process reform discussion as far back as the enactment of the 1974 Budget Act.

Today, our goal is to further the discussion and examine the merits of biennial budgeting to answer the question: “Does biennial budgeting fit in a rewrite of the budget process?”

That’s the same question we will need to ask of each and every potential solution that might come forward in this endeavor. Any potential reform should be viewed in the context of an overhaul of the entire budget process and where it fits into the broader goals laid out in our principles. And, through transparent consideration and scrutiny of each proposal we will advance this cause in a fair and constructive manner. 

Biennial budgeting is an idea that deserves rigorous debate to better understand what the implications would be –for the work of this committee, our appropriators, our authorizing committees and our shared pursuit of oversight over the nation’s fiscal well-being. Were we to shift to biennial budgeting, it would fundamentally change how Congress operates. Therefore, all its ramifications should be weighed carefully and thoughtfully.

I look forward to hearing Congressman Ribble’s testimony on his bill – and from Congressman David Price, who has had a long interest in this subject. And I look forward to hearing from our second panel of budget experts who will be able to lend their background and expertise to this discussion.

We’ll hear from Alice Rivlin, a former director at CBO and now a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution, Rudolph Penner, a former director at CBO and now a fellow at the Urban Institute, and Philip Joyce, the Senior Associate Dean and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here. The committee looks forward to your testimony and discussing the potential pros and cons of moving to a biennial budgeting system.

As I stated at the outset, our Congressional budget process has a profound impact on far more than just the budgets we produce in this committee. It is fundamental to the constitutional responsibilities of Congress as well as our duty as elected representatives to be good stewards of the tax dollars of hard-working Americans. With that in mind, I look forward to a positive and productive discussion.

I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen.