September 6, 2016 9:44 AM
Congress heads back to Washington today after an extra long August recess due to the July party conventions. The biggest item on its plate is finalizing appropriations for fiscal 2017, which begins on October 1st. That leaves four short weeks to get the job done. Senator David Perdue, who sits on the Senate Budget Committee and has been a strong advocate for budget and spending reform is frustrated.
Only three of the twelve appropriations bills have passed the Senate, and the chances of more passing are unlikely. Due to gridlock in the House and Senate, Perdue predicts a continuing resolution will pass to prevent a government shutdown, followed by an omnibus spending bill. Whether that omnibus bill lasts long enough to get to the new year and past the inauguration of the next president or whether it will last for the rest of the fiscal year is up for discussion, with Senator Perdue expecting the former.
The blame for yet another year-end battle over spending, according to Perdue, is the budget process that occurs in the Spring that he says has only worked four times since it started.
Senator Perdue plans to introduce a bill this month to revise the way budgeting, and by extension appropriations, works. The bill will have three major principles. First, everything the government spends must be in the budget, including what is considered mandatory spending such as Social Security and other entitlements. The second principle is that the annual budget must be approved by both parties and signed into law. Currently, the budget is a resolution that is essentially written by the majority party with little help from the minority, and frequently varies from the President’s proposed budget. Finally, Perdue is calling for severe consequences unless Congress can pass its spending bills in time. He wants to set a June 30th deadline for passing spending bills for the year beginning in October. Failure to meet that deadline would result in Senators and their staff not being paid until the government is properly funded.
Perdue claims that there is support on both sides of the aisle for such a proposal, which would allow the parties to debate spending priorities at the beginning of the year. He calls the proposals a politically neutral platform developed by members of the House and Senate.
Senator Perdue isn’t sure whether the proposed bill will advance and become law. He says there is a lot of behind the scenes support for his proposals. He hopes that the gridlock in Washington that results in a mad dash to produce an omnibus spending bill has frustrated leadership as well as rank-and-file members will allow his proposal to come to the floor for a vote.