Congress should switch from an annual budget process to a two-year cycle to provide greater stability for federal agencies and conduct better oversight of government programs, lawmakers and witnesses said during a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Democrats and Republicans both expressed support for approving biennial agency budgets, or even multi-year appropriations, to fix what has become a routine, last-minute process of passing continuing resolutions to keep the government operating.
The current process is "no way to run a budget or a federal government," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he used to favor an annual budget process, but the reality is that it's no longer possible to pass 13 spending bills each year in the current environment. "Can you imagine running one of these agencies operating on a continuing resolution for one month, three months, six months?" he asked, rhetorically, in his opening statement. In fiscal 2011, Congress passed 8 stopgap funding measures. Congress last passed all the appropriations bills on time in 1994.
Biennial budgeting would require Congress to enact a two-year budget during its first session, and then focus on oversight of federal programs, authorizing legislation and necessary measures to respond to emergencies or unforeseen events during the second session.
-Kellie Lunney, GovExec.com