A Disastrous Budget Process
By Lee H. Hamilton
Congress has slipped into dangerous waters this summer. According to the rule books, this should be when the federal budget gets pieced together by a broad array of congressional committees and members on the floor. The last time Congress played by these rules for all of its spending bills was 14 years ago. This year, itís barely even trying.
What we have these days on Capitol Hill is a disastrous budget process. This matters because preparing the budget and setting federal spending lies at the heart of what Congress does. It is how the Congress puts its stamp on the federal government. So its failure to adhere to executive process weakens it as an institution and weakens the country.
For many years, Congress took up individual appropriations bills, debated them, and passed them on time. That process evolved for a reason: It safeguarded public discourse, enhanced congressional oversight, and buttressed the vital role Congress plays in forging a national consensus. If Congress wants to remain relevant and legitimate, it can start by reviving its disciplined approach to budgeting.
(Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.)
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