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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  January 14, 2016 1:03pm-3:04pm EST

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is. and if you think about it, whether it's from a national perspective or a new hampshire perspective, heroin abuse in the united states has reached unprecedented levels. it's increased 63% over the last decade. when you see something of that significance and increase that quickly you would car which a national epidemic. new hampshire alone we have doubled from 2004 to 2013 the number of state-based inpatient individuals to 1,500. we've had thousands of overdoses just in the last year and we had 400 deaths related to drug abuse and drug overdose. so i'm interested and i know that chair custer is also interested in not just solving this crisis but also anticipating and planning for the next one so we can be proactive in saving as many lives as we possibly can. so i thank you very much for the time that you've given us today. we will be announcing our next hearing in the coming weeks and
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we look forward to working with each and every one of you in combatting this heroin epidemic and with that our time has expired for the afternoon. thank you for being here. we are now closed. house and senate republicans are away from capitol hill as they attend a policy retreat in baltimore, maryland. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell and paul ryan will be talking with reporters today at about 1:30 eastern.
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you can watch that live on c-span. coming up live monday on c-span, british house of commons debate as members consider barring republican presidential candidate donald trump from the united kingdom. this is after his remarks about muslims attempting to come to the usa petition to bar him from entering britain has received more than a quarter million signatures. live coverage of that debate monday starts 15 s 11:30 a.m. en on c-span. up northeast here on c-span 3, a proposal to change the annual budget process to one which would fund the government in two-year cycles. house rules committee members and other members commented in favor and against that proposal. republican representative reed rib l and democrat curt schrader are co-sponsoring that legislation.
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>> good morning, the subcommittee will come to order. appreciate folks joining us today. this is our first subcommittee hearing of the 114th congress in the rules committee and i'd like to thank my good friend, the gentleman from florida, mr. hastings, for his support of this hearing. i'd also like that thank on his staff our subcommittee staff, ranking member staff director parson for her help and mr. cody for his nuclear weapon the rules committee and our subcommittee staff director. this hearing before the subcommit three exam hr 1610, the biennial budgeting and enhanced oversight act of 2015. i'll introduce my good friend from wisconsin, mr. ribl. in 1974, the congressional budget act, that i will make note, was in the sole original jurisdiction of this rules committee that create tad budget
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committee in 1974 and granted that authority. the question before us today is can moving from an annual to a by annual budget process help congress meet its deadlines? can it help us to spend the taxpayers' money more wisely? too often it's a stacked deck but that's certainly not our purpose today. we have distinguished members of congress from both sides of the issue prepared to testify on our current process and help us learn more on how to become more efficient and effective. i know many members here are co-sponsors of mr. ribble's bill and some are strong supporters of an annual budget process instead and i look forward to hearing both sides today. i would like to recognize the gentleman from florida, my friend mr. hastings, for any comments he may have.
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>> with regard to the staff to prepare for convening this subcommittee hearing on biennial budgeting and enhanced oversight act of 2015. mr. chairman, i'm very open-minded on this subject. i have remarks that may have countered that sentiment but i have very strong convictions that we are going in the right direction and as i spoke with you yesterday if time commits hopefully we will hear other voices outside of our congress on this subject. while i'm not opposed to congress debating te ing thing biennial budgeting and don't believe it's necessarily a bad idea, i think it its disadvantages may outweigh its advantages and that it ultimately will not work with a budget as complex and as fraught
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with partisanship, quite frankly, as ours, and i think that's your objective, to try to take that partisan sting out of the budget process. i don't see how we can completely transform the federal budget process in this manner without first trying out a few test cases, if we're really serious about biennial budgeting we ought to identify a few programs we can test this out on for a few budget cycles before imposing it on the entire federal structure. the problem with our annual budget and appropriations debate if we have some appropriate raters here that i'm sure will weigh in and if you'll all from another hearing i asked chairman rogers of appropriations chair his thoughts on this, he kind of favored the biennial budgeted but wanted it to be one year appropriations process but
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rather i our debate is not the timeline but rather the political leadership, smoothing out a few procedures here and there is not going to in my opinion magically make our budget debates any easier. i suspect there's a correlation interest in biennial budgeting and the level of partisanship here in the house of representatives. if this body really wanted to, we could agree on a budget in one week or one day. but the budget is an intensely political process and that's not going to change if we do it every year or every other year. and even in the off year, we'd still be required to make necessary changes, consider supplemental spending and argue over authorizations and other revisions. if my friends on the other side are truly committed to working with the democrats and the
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president to assure a smooth budget process, they would do so rather than tying our hands in convoluted budgetary procedures. if ensuring a smooth process means that my republican friends are not going to try to eliminate medicare or pass tax cuts for the wealthiest americans or threaten to default on our national debt, then by all means let's pass these reform bills but we all know the reality of the situation and that is nothing is going to happen. making the federal budget biennial will not stop the political debate. will not reduce our workload and will ultimately result in a huge transfer of power to the executive branch and i happen to be one who continues to argue that congress has allowed too much of congress's responsibilities to be placed in the executive branch of which by
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necessity will have -- they will have greater leeway with purse strings. we ought to be about the business of finding ways in the federal budget to create jobs for struggling americans and ensure we're not leaving those with the least among us to fend for themselves. more states -- and these are a few stats -- have moved away from biennial budgeting than towards it. currently there are 19 states that have some sort of two-year budget muchless than t lesless states in 1940. only three states have switched from annual to biennial budgeting. now seven of the 10 biggest states have annual cycles. it's clear so that so many states have
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states have abandoned biennial budgeting so i think it's fair to say you cannot implement a meaningful budget two to three years in advance. mr. chairman, i certainly thank you for holding this hearing today and i look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel of witnesses. >> i thank my friend from florida. today we have the gentleman from oklahoma, tom cole, the author of our bill, reed ribble, from the budget committee, dr. price and our friend from oregon, curt schrader. our order of testimony this morning since we're considering the ribble bill i want to start with mr. ribble then i wanted to go to our distinguished friend from north carolina and then on to our kmuls committee and mr. mcclintock and mr. schrader. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i want to thank the ranking member as well, thank him for his comments. any time you try to do something significant it comes with challenges. those that might oppose it, that might be concerned about it, any time you try to challenge the status quo it's going to come with some anxiety around here. that i believe biennial budgeting reform now has 233 co-sponsors sporting it. because the current budget process simply has not work ed and it's only gotten worse. since the congressional budget act in 1974, congress has never passed both a budget resolution and all of its appropriation bills on time in the same year. never, not even once. it gets worse, though, in election years ranking member hastings talked about politics. in the 40 year history of the current budget process, only one time has congress enacted a budget resolution process on time in an election year.
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that was in 1976, just two years after the '74 budget act was signed into law. in fact, in the last 17 years, congress has failed to even pass a budget in election years 77% of the time. these 233 co-sponsors include a majority of the majority. 75% of the republicans in the house of representatives have been co-sponsors. it includes a majority of the budget committee, it includes a majority of this committee, it includes a majority of committee chairmen. it includes one-third of the democrat party. it's truly a bipartisan effort whose time has come. because congress's failure to complete its work, we're forced to rely on continuing resolutions and omnibus appropriations bills that are hastily passed, usually without improvements to programs that could from effective oversight. given four decades of failure, let me explain why i feel biennial budgeting should be part of the solution. first, biennial budget willing provide greater certainty by moving the budget decisions furthest away from election year
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politics, greatly enhancing the likelihood of passing a budget and providing a budget in an election year. it's not lost on me that the majority of colleagues on the house arms services committee support this effort. second, having a budget every two years will reduce the need for frequent stopgap measures like continuing resolutions. crs aren't just bad government, they're missed opportunities for congress to put its stamp on the executive branch and how it operates. with all due respect, mr. hastings, this does not give the president t more power even though the president supports it, it gives executives more certainty the congress will do its work. what executive doesn't want certainty in their funding? third, moving to a biennial process would free up more time on the house floor to tackle mandatory spending and tax policy in other essential work. the 2016 congressional calendar has only 12 work weeks from may through september, in essence, the only thing congress will do next summer is appropriations, biennial budgeting opens the
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door for congress to do all of its work. fourth, not only will biennial budgeting tilt congress's focus to oversight, it will reduce the use it or lose it mentality that wastes precious taxpayer dollars at the end of every fiscal year. nearly the 20% of all federal spending occurs in the last few weeks of the year and nearly a $35 billion increase in spending occurs in the last week alone. that's a spike in the last week. i realize when any reform proposal is put forth some will favor the status quo, as is the case here. there's a certain comfort with what you know, even when you know what you have doesn't work. know organization on the planet embraces the status quo quite like the congress of the united states, we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good, nor should we let comfort with the status quo become a barrier to fixing a broken system. you all need to know i don't argue biennial budgeting is a panac panacea, it is not.
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it just simply isn't. but those that offer some critiques to it i think are worthy of a response. first critics argue that politics is to blake, not the annual budgeting process. that opinion is not without merit. mr. hastings, you mentioned in the your comments. that's a critique of congress as a whole, not biennial budgeting. it is politics that have kept us from budgeting in election years. if anything, biennial budgeting improves the outlook and steers the process away from politics rather than toward it members of both parties can and work together more often was this legislation that has been co-sponsored in the last three congresss with congressman schrader and myself. secondly critics argue we need comprehensive budget reform instead. i get that but it's been said around here that comprehensive reform is merely code language
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for "not in my lifetime." we've tried to do comprehensive immigration reform, comprehensive tax reform, comprehensive health care reform and here we are with none of them being done. i think comprehensive budget reform will fall into that same paradigm. we should not let the idea that we want to the go all the way with the reform prevent us from going part of the way. we should take the first step so we can begin the journey of comprehensive reform rather than saying we must take the entire journey in one step. we can get that done that way. in conclusion, biennial budgeting is an idea whose time has come. the house is seeking to work its will, mr. chairman, i would like you to know that this bill has so much bipartisan support from virtually every caucus in the congress, whether it's the progressive caucus, black caucus, house freedom caucus, republican study committee, and it has vast support from outside groups as well. with that said, i know that any
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bill could use some tweaking and maybe improving. i want everyone to know that i'm eager and ready to work with anybody who wants to improve this bill as it moves forward but time is of the essence and i encourage you to promptly move to a mark up and continue this important work. there's a bipartisan majority of members on this committee on this bill. once again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify here today. i look forward and will be happy to answer any questions. >> gentleman from north carolina, mr. price. >> thank you, mr. chairman, appreciate the chance to testify today and would ask my entire statement be put in the record. >> without objection. >> i first testified about this subject, biennial budgeting, more than 15 years ago before this very committee. our nation's fiscal situation was quite different. the enactment of multiyear budget agreements coupled with a growing economy has produced several years of balanced budgets and allowed us to pay
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down more than $400 billion of the national debt. since then, to say the least, things have changed. we've had trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue, two unpaid for wars, a necessary but expensive countercyclical response to the great recession and most recently five years of extremely partisan and largely dysfunctional congressional budget politics so it's understandable that the idea of biennial budgeting would again hold some appeal for members in search of solutions to our current co-s but this is truly a case in which the remedy could be a good deal worst than the disease. i'm the first to agree the congressional budget and appropriation processes have eroded significantly. mr. ribble is right about that. but biennial budgeting would do nothing address the underlying causes of the dysfunction and would likely make matters worse by weakening congressional oversight of the executive, jacking more decisions up to the leadership of both parties and increase regular lines on supplemental appropriations bills considered outside the
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regular order. i want to stress my opposition to biennial budgets doesn't extend to the ult multiyear budget agreements such as the two-year plan passed by congress a few months ago. this legislation lifted the misguided sequester caps for two fiscal years and allowed appropriators to write funding bill which is could be stitched together into an omnibus measure. that wasn't ideal but the end result was better than the likely alternatives of a government shutdown or year-long continuing resolution. however this has led to confusion with some describing the two-year budget agreement as a de facto biennial budget. that's not true. this ignores the fact a budget resolution is not just a statement of discretionary funding levels. it provides an opportunity to lay out fiscal goals, set mandatory spending and revenue target, activate the reconciliation process and address budget enforcement procedures. so my support for the two-year budget agreement doesn't equal support for biennial budgeting
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and the agreement does not obviate the need for annual budget resolutions and annual appropriations bills. proponents of biennial budgeting claim it would free up congress to conduct oversight in the office years. that's a very ironic claim because the most careful and effective oversight congress conducts is through the annual appropriations process. when an agency's performance and needs are reviewed program by program line by line. off-year oversight would be less, not more effective because it would be further removed from actual funding decisions and he is the reduce congress's leverage. supporters note that four recent presidents -- both presidents bush, bill clinton, ronald reagan all favored biennial appropriations. does that surprise anyone? if this suggests that biennial budgeting is not a partisan issue, it should warn us that it's certainly an institutional issue. it should be obvious why presidents would support a free pass every other r other year
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from an appropriations process that could make or break their agenda. that also support the line-item veto. they also support a ban on earmarks. they support measures aimed at weakening congress's authority vis-a-vis the executive branch. now, as a senior appropriator, i'm naturally sensitive to charges that opponents of biennial budget are defenders of appropriations committee turf. i would suggest that the annual work of appropriations serves the entire institutions. it serves our place in the constitutional balance of power and that doesn't matter what the division of party control is or who the president is. the appropriations process has to be held accountable cocongress and the country but it does serve the entire institution. what about this accountability? i think biennial budget willing do more harm than good. faced with outdated and unworkable funding levels for individual programs in the second year of a biennial appropriations, what's the federal agency going to do? they're going to seek reprogramming, reallocation of
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their budget request. who grants those? they're granted or denied solely by the appropriations subcommittee chairman and ranking member without debate, without amendments, without votes and without public scrutiny. off-year budget problems that could not be handled through reprogramming would necessitate numerous supplemental appropriations bills. in fact, the whole purpose of a biennial budget could be undermined by the proliferation of supplementals in the off years. perversely, we would have replaced the deliberative and democratic process of annual appropriations with supplemental bills that are sporadic, rushed and heavily controlled by leadership. finally, let me switch hats for a moment and as a former house budget committee member articulate some additional concerns that ranking member van holland identified. first, the bill as currently proposed would apparently make a number of changes unrelated to biennial budgeting that could
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weaken transparency in the overall budget process. one provision would consolidate many individual budget functions and show increases or decreases in spending that -- it would consolidate these functions that show the increases or decreases in spending sbi specific topics such as transportation or health care. so as a further breakdown of this, it wouldn't be available during the markup, would never be voted on and could mask proposed cuts. an annual budget resolution forces congress to make spending and revenue decisions or at the very least to put on paper its fiscal priorities. relegating this task to once every two years could mean congress is essentially abandoning half of its opportunities to control the nation'ses per strings. in closing, mr. chairman, for reasons practical as well as institutional, biennial budgeting isn't a better idea today than 15 years ago.
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it would be a mistake to allow budget disagreements toward a supposed remedy that would make the budgets and appropriations process less systematic, less flexible, let potent. what we must do is muster the political will to make difficult and politically costly decisions, including a comprehensive budget plan that addresses the main drivers of our deficit and our debt, namely tax expenditures and entitlement spending. i urge my deletion reject the siren call of biennial budgeting. thank you. >> gentleman from oklahoma, mr. coal. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and mr. ranking member, great to be here in this capacity before you. in the interest of time i almost feel like i ought to say "amen" and ask dr. price's excellent testimony simply be repeated as my remarks because i couldn't be more in agreement with the many points he raised, but, again,
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thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify. every year congress seems beset by the same problems -- missed budget deadlines, delays, late appropriations bills, inability to pass authorization billsened run away man tear spending. let's look at the facts. in fiscal year 2007 congress failed to agree to a budget resolution conference report by the statutory deadline 100% of the time. in fact according to the congressional research service, congress has med the budget reelectrocution deadline only six times since 1974. to the extent congress wants to change the existing budget framework, changes should be made to consideration of the budget resolution, not to appropriations measures, changes to the budget process itself, a goal i know chairman price shares, or a change to the senate rules that would allow appropriations bills to come to the senate floor more readily are likely to yield significantly more benefits than most other options. biennial budgeting as envisioned
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actually reduces the opportunity for congressional oversight. the current annual processing requiring agency administrators to justify and defend their programs and budgets is a critical tool to evaluate how federal programs are working and how taxpayer dollars are being spent. under the existing annual structure, if agency spending is inconsistent with congressional intent, congress can take timely action that year and the next appropriation. with more than 100 budget and oversight hearings held annually by the appropriations committee, the annual appropriations process remains one of the most valuable congressional mechanisms yet under biennial appropriations that important oversight would either not occur or would occur every other year. most authorizing committees already perform effective oversight of the programs under their jurisdictions. 2015 the house authorized over
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760 oversight hearings. clearly the problem for authorizers is not a lack of time, it's getting their bills through the political process, through congress and to the president. last year, they were able to generate the annual national defense authorization act, the medicare access and chip reauthorization act of 2015, a long-term highway reauthorization and an esea reauthorization. all of which demonstrate that authorizers have time for oversight. it's unclear whether hr 1610 does anything actually strengthen the authorization process as currently drafted section 106 would preclude annual authorization bills like the ndaa and diminish its oversight authority. besides relaxing oversight, appropriations in particular with transfer powers away from congress to both the president and the bureaucracy. the constitution vests the power of the purse in this chmber, closest and most account to
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believe the people. biennial budgeting limits that responsibility. additionally, there are practical considerations which make biennial appropriations unworkable at the federal level. under an annual appropriations systems makes precise projections is already difficult. formulation of the budget begins 15 to 18 months prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. even on an annual basest estimates will miss the mark. extending the budget lead time to 27 or 30 months would decrease the reliability and quality of the estimates, limit the executive branch's ability to foresee future needs and increase unanticipated funding requirements. supporters of biennial budgeting and appropriations often site that many states use a two-year budget process making it viable for the federal government. but this is a poor analogy, in my view. unlike states, the federal government fulfills numerous governments no state can or
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should. it serves a population of well over 300 million people, provides for the national defense on a global basis, conducts international relations and the like. further states operating under biennial budgeting have steady declined since the 1940s as my friend mr. hastings pointed out, from 44 states in 1940 to only 19 states today. i'm skeptical a shift to biennial appropriations will solve any of the problems that plague the budget process or improve the authorization or appropriations process. instead, it would undermine the constitutional power of the purse and strengthen unelected agency bureaucrats. it would weaken oversight across the board. it would lead to decisions based on faulty estimates and would likely lead to increased spending, a view, it is worth noting, shared by previous chairman of the house budget committee when they served in this bod, chairman nestle and chairman separate. so thank you and i look forward to anning questions you may
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have. >> mr. mcclintock. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think we all agree the current budget process has not -- has begun a comprehensive overall of that process and i cannot stress enough the budget committee believe there is needs to be a total and complete rewrite of the 1974 congressional budget act and that this is the top priority of its work this year. we are very concerned that consideration of a biennial budget bill or any patchwork changes make consideration of comprehensive reform this year much less likely. we would strongly urge the house to give its budget committee the time to develop and recommend a complete replacement of the process. but in the meantime we should avoid making the problem worse. i commend the supporters of the bill and the author of the bill to trying to make it better but i'm concerned it runs afoul of the one law we have no control
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over -- the law of unintended consequences. at the heart of this bill is the universal frustration felt by all of us that the budget process breaks down because of its come policety and magnitude. hr 1610 attempts to address this by changing the budget process to a two-year psych until which the budget resolution, the appropriation bills and structures are adopted in the first year of a session to cover the next two years. we desperately need a process that produces responsible budgets and appropriations but we need to ask if this measure doesn't take us farther away from that goal. this bill doubles both the time span and the amount of money at stake in the budget and reconciliation and appropriation bills. the difficulties of dealing with these tough fiscal issues are already enormous. this bill raises the takes by a factor of two. the nature of the fiscal process is quintessentially one of give and take and compromise i think
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people are more likely to compromise if they know they can revisit the issue in a year. i think they are much less willing to compromise if they know the outcome will be locked into the law for the next two years. i think both sides under this measure would be more likely to dig in their heels on tough issues under a two-year process knowing they won't be able to revisit them next year. proponents are rightly critical of congress's preference to kick the can down the road on physical bills, particularly during an election year. but let me ask you -- doesn't a two-year budget process institutionalize this problem? assuming you can reach agreement in the first year -- which this bill, by the way, makes much less likely -- the two year budget puts the second year on auto pilot by design proponents believe congress doesn't have enough time to do oversight because of demands made by the annual budget process and this reform would free up a whole year do that but as has been
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pointed out, we do a lot of oversight right now. the house conducted more than 767 oversight hearings last year alone. what gives oversight teeth is the money that congress appropriates. otherwise, oversight is just hot air. right now agency administrators must appear before a congressional committee every year to justify and defend their programs in order to receive funding. if an agency's spending is inconsistent with congressional intent, congress can address that issue that year in the appropriations process. when an agency is dependent on congress for its budget, it is by necessity more responsive to congress. why would rerender congress impotent to act one year out of every two. the two year budget gives agencies greater certainty of what they'll spend but doesn't that come at the expense of
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congress now having far less certainty of what those same agencies will actually need and far less control over how they're spending it? further more as has been pointed out, it's difficult to peer one year into the future, far harder to anticipate conditions and needs two years hence. under the biennial budget, agencies would start their budget process 28 months before the beginning of the second year and 40 months before the end. the natural result will be an explosion of supplemental bills in the second year which is the very antithesis of good budgeting. i think the proponents of biennial budgeting tacitly admit these shortcomings. we've heard the suggestion to mood phi t modify the proposal by only imposing the two year cycle on the budget resolution. but the irony is the budget resolution hasn't been the big problem. in 32 of the last 40 years, congress has enacted a budget resolution, albeit sometime
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slightly late. the appropriation bills have been the heavy lift. we've separately enacted all of our appropriation bills only four times in the last 40 years. there is a reason why most states are abandoning two-year budgets in favor of annual appropriations. the states that retain biennial cycles are the smaller states and even among them it's hardly a panacea. one of them is hawaii that's run up the second-highest per capita debt in the country. so in conclusion let me point out i know there are a lot of who believe that it would be -- they look at this budget process and say it would be impossible to make it any worse but i think there is a way. we could craft a process that makes compromise and concession more difficult by doubling the time span and money that's at stake. we could require congress can the can down the road every election year precisely when the american people are paying the most attention.
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we could make congress impotent to act on its oversight findings every other year. we can make the final year of each session dependent on information 28 and 40 months stale and we could bypass the comprehensive review that the house budget committee has begun that seeks to reform all aspects of the budget process. i would suggest perhaps we should take a word of advise from hippocrates -- first do no harm. >> thank you, gentlemen. mr. schrader? >> well, appreciate the opportunity to be here, mr. chairman and testify on hr 1610, the biennial budgeting and enhanced oversight act of 2015. second time i've joined with mr. ribble in sponsoring this concept because it actually gives congress the opportunity to return to doing the people's business in a more efficient and though romaner. every single member that's testified before this committee has said the process we haven't isn't working.
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the definition of insanity is to continue to do that. with the recent election of a new speaker of the house, part of the mantra as i understood it from the majority party is we're going to do things different. if a bill has a certain number of sponsors, the members think it's worthwhile to consider. not only do they get a chance at a hearing, they get a chance at the markup and a chance for that bill to show up on the floor. i don't see what's wrong with that. there's no guarantee this is going to pass. no guarantee at all. we have members that are very concerned. i think their concerns are misapplied. as has been pointed out, we've had a difficult time passing budget bill, it's a purely theatrical political process. you yourself have served on the committee, mr. chairman, mr. ribble and i have. members here. it's unfortunate, i was co-chair of the budget process for my state of oregon for six years when i was in the state senate and it actually had meaning. it was substantive and we did it biennially at that time. we made sure we set targets so
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agencies knew what they were and we could hold them accountable more so in the off years than imply sod far. the last session of congressing is a good point to go from. we were able to pass good things in a bipartisan manner. there's an opportunity to do things together. nclb finally reformed, long-term transportation bill, implement social security disability reforms. those are great things and this has been done in a highly part san atmosphere but yet the budget process is dysfunctional. i don't understand why we want to fight this battle every year, most businesses and responsible households have a longer time frame for their budget. they don't budget year to year or retroactively like we seem to do with our tax issues. they have longer term budget horizons. you can appropriate in between, you can make changes. we did that in oregon when needed but there's a certainty
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that this budget process lacks right now that good business sense would indicate is totally irrational and not helpful at all. there is no certainty. biennial budget willing allow agencies to do their job. i would respectfully suggest to my appropriations colleagues here that when i was in the state legislature, my agencies in oregon spent time preparing with their dog and pony show before they came before us. they spent time in their offices testing and role-playing how they would respond and all this stuff. is that what you want your agencies to do with your taxpayer dollars? no. you want them doing the job you've assigned to them. i have a big -- i'm a big fan of the appropriations process in the united states congress. it's one of the few areas where there hib historically consistent bipartisanship when it comes to making tough decisions. but that unfortunately does not have to go away.
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in the off years there's an opportunity for these members to work closer together. when i was co-chair of the budget back in oregon, not only did the agencies have certainty to do the job they were assigned to do they knew they were getting reviewed. we could judge them on their outcomes, not whether i liked that program or was invested in it, but did they produce good results? in the off years we could delve very deeply into the program. members of each of the subcommittee could look deeply into the programs that weren't performing like they were told to or expected to. that's the power the appropriations people will have as a result of going to biennial budgeting. a much more thorough investigation rather than just deciding if there's a slight increase based on inflation and caseload from the year before and whether they or someone in leadership likes their program. it will empower these folks. we won't see comprehensive reform. my good colleague from wisconsin
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pointed that out. i respectfully disagree with my good colleague from california. it won't happen. the majority is not inclined towards comprehensive reform. i'm not sure i agree with them but something of this nature let's do it. let's do something we know will systematically change how we do things in a positive manner. it mifs much more power to the legislature, much less to the executive because we'll be going deeply into these programs. the executive branch wants things to happen because they want their agency to do the work. if i hear that coming before us and we're spending six months every year with this dog-and-pony show they're not going to be able to do the work. if we're looking at the top lines, we won't get the information we need to protect the taxpayer and give them what they need which is good budgeting process. i respectfully suggest with the limited budget dollars we have available to us that we give the agencies a chance to do their job and hold them accountable
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every time we can. there's nothing that says in this bill appropriations people can't meet on a more often basis to do what they need to do. thank you, mr. chairman. >> we have a lot of folks who testify in front of this committee people have found their passion. everyone on this panel has found their passion long, long ago and shares it. i'll ask the sponsor of the bill, my friend mr. prribble, i heard dr. price distinguish between these two year budget agreements and biennial agreements that we've been operating under for four years but it seems those of us who have frustration with the inability to get the appropriations processed finished on time is only valuable if it occurs. if we were governing by continuing resolutions i would argue we're not experiencing that oversight that the appropriations process should
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provide. to mr. hasting's point about finding test cases, can we use this biennial budget agreement that has been drafted as the test case for whether or not this will lead to a better appropriations outcome? >> we're already into the third year of a biennial agreement, quite frankly. we had the ryan/murray agreement. then the greener speaker boehner negotiated so when it gets pulled away from the politics of the day, they go to a two-year budget. they get the certainty and quite frankly i think mr. price rightly commented that in an annual appropriations process. have that second-year number early benefits them. there's no reason right now the appropriations committee cannot move forward with the second year appropriations already. they can start right now because they now have a top-line number. that's one of the key advantages. you can argue and there is room in that debate about whether it should be annual appropriations biennial budgeting or babiennia
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appropriations and biennial budgeting. i prefer tlatter but i'm hope t making a step in the right direction to try to get this thing working correctly. one of the things i suggested was to apply to the congress. and when i say "congress" i'm not talking about house, i'm talking about congress an enforcement trigger that requires the congress to stay and do its work until those appropriations bills are moved. if we would do that, you would be surprised that we probably could get both of these thing done. some of the concerns and nears are out there would melt away like the morning dew if we could get that done. i was surprised a year or so ago, two years ago after the senate failed to pass any budget at all we put into a debt limit
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increase another piece of legislation i had worked with jim cooper on called no budget no pay. just a piece of it and like a miracle in 28 days the u.s. senate after three years of not doing anything passed a budget and that enforcement trigger moved the senate to actually do their job. this american people want this place to work on their behalf and quite frankly, mr. chairman, with 233 co-sponsors, those co-sponsors are the voices of 700,000 people in each of those districts and they're saying we need to fix this. >> mr. mcclintock, i tend to agree with mr. schrader the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. the frustrations that we have are shared frustrations from missing deadlines to having power navigate down pennsylvania avenue to the white house on and on.
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do you anticipate the reforms that happened in a comprehensive package even beyond biennial budgeting addressing those concerns. >> i can tell you that chairman price is absolutely devoted to bringing a comprehensive reform to the floor this year. we all agree this process isn't working but so many arguments in favor of the biennial budget are predicated on the assumption that a two-year budget will be somehow magically much easier to pass. i think quite the contrary. it will be harder to pass because as i said the stakes are literally doubled. congressman ribble said something very important. he said we could meet these deadlines if we just kept the house in session until we passed them. i've seen that in the state legislature in california. we can't negotiate and make all of the disuses that are necessary if we're scattered to the four winds from one side of the continent to the other. i think that's a tacit
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admission, not the annual budget process at fault but other matters such as those that allow the congress to pass the deadline and go home. you keep us in session day after day i guarantee you we'll work out an like i said, i've seen it in california and those were the days when it required a two-thirds vote to pass the annual budget. >> the annual budget i might add. >> it's been 20 years ago this year the last time congress passed all the appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year. many of the objections i hear to biennial budgeting come from my friends on the appropriations committee, when biennial budgeting is paired with biennial appropriating. if i understood correctly, dr. price, you would oppose both biennial budgeting and biennial appropriations? mr. cole, you might be able to tolerate biennial budgeting but would insist on annual appropriations, is that a fair characterization?
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>> i'll let my colleague respond and i'll -- >> i was stressing that while i support this two-year budget agreement and the one before that and think that has helped us get past these very partisan, very politicized budget resolutions that simply -- they not only make bipartisanship impossible, they make appropriations impossible, literally. you cannot pass appropriations bills to those levels. so, we have these budget resolutions that are largely political documents, and at the end of the session with a shutdown looming, we renegotiate those numbers for discretionary spending and we stitch together these appropriations bills. as i said, not ideal, but better than the alternative. now, -- but those are simply -- those budget agreements consist simply of an adjustment in the discretionary spending caps.
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the annual budget resolution does a lot more than that in terms of setting revenue and entitlement spending levels, the reconciliation process, lots of other things. if you're looking for something closer to the ideal, i would look back to the five-year agreements of the 1990s. because those agreements were comprehensive. they didn't just deal with discretionary spending levels. they did deal with revenue. they dealt with entitlements. they produced a -- we still had annual appropriations. and for that matter we still had annual budget resolutions. but the five-year agreements set parameters which i think were enormously successful, that along with pay-as-you-go rules. so we had four years of balanced budgets. we, of course, had a roaring economy to help with that. but that was -- that was all interrelated the fiscal responsibility in this body had a lot to do with the kind of virtuous cycle that set in in the '90s. so, i -- yes, i think we would still need an annual budget resolution, but the heart of the
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matter here is annual appropriations. as mr. ribble just said, that actually might be facilitated with the right kind of multiyear budget agreements. >> as a member of the budget committee, i feel targeted by the suggestion of biennial budgeting as if somehow the budget committee has failed, i sometimes sense that accusation and same defensive coming from appropriators since that is one of the processes that has succeeded when our other processes have failed. but, mr. cole, it's been 20 years since we finished the appropriations process on time. >> this year every single appropriations bill was passed by the appropriations committee in plenty of time to go to the floor. and we all know what derailed the appropriations process on the floor and it had nothing to do with the appropriations. it was the confederate flag issue that stopped it. i think that speaks very poorly of the congress as collectively.
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i don't think it affects the appropriations committee one way or the other. you asked a specific question, first, obviously the bill would be more palatable to me if it allowed for an annual appropriations process. but i would still oppose it. i mean, i also have the same concerns that my colleagues pointed out from a budgetary standpoint. and i think you also lose the opportunity to talk about, you know, what i think is one -- what the fundamental problem with expenditures around here and that's entitlement spending and tax expenditures as my friend talked about. if you're an appropriator, you just say, well, why don't ways and means bring real entitlement reform to the floor? we bring appropriations bills every year. and the times that we have not brought those to the floor, again, they've normally been leadership decisions by democrats or republicans when they were respectively in power, because they either didn't want to subject people to difficult votes or -- and, you know, that's -- that's a leadership problem around here, quite frankly, that i think both sides of the aisle share.
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and i think normal members ought to be concerned about how much of their ability has gravitated to the leadership. i don't care who's in power at any given moment. if you're writing appropriations bills in the speaker's office, you're making a big mistake, because you don't have the staff for it, you don't have the expertise for it and i can assure you nobody in leadership goes to committee meetings on a regular basis. that's why you want people who have actually gone to the hearings and have built up expertise over years doing these things. one last point, at least people think that partisanship makes that impossible. it's certainly a factor. we live in a much higher polarization and much more intense partisanship than some earlier eras, but appropriators can usually sit down and get the deal done. they usually find a common middle ground on expenditures of money. what tends to complicate things is when we add a lot of extraneous issues that we all believe in, but if you put it in the appropriations process, it
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will make it extremely difficult. my friend and i can come to an agreement on the expenditure of money, i could put some things on and he could put things on that are extraneous and that's what complicates the appropriations process quite frankly. it's not the spending of money. it is the policy issues that have not been resolved and turn to the appropriations committee as the mechanism to get them through. i would simply like them to deal with them within their respective lanes of jurisdiction. we're there about spending money. we're not there really to legislate. in saying that i don't mean we should give up our ability to frankly micromanage the executive branch, and i think you can do that very effectively with dollars. but, again, there are other issues that far transcend that that we've allowed to get into the appropriations process, both sides have done that. i'm not trying to cast aspersions either way and that makes life more difficult. but, again, the oversight -- we know we can do this.
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we've just demonstrated. the appropriations committee brought every single bill through the entire committee on time. so, that's not the problem. the problem is on the floor. not in the appropriations committee. >> before fielding to my friend from north carolina i see don wolfensburger is in the audience today. former staff director here at the rules committee. decades of service to the american people on capitol hill now with the bipartisan policy center. i would like to have their testimony entered in the record with a copy of their report governing in a polarized america, a bipartisan replay to strengthen our democracy. without objection, put that in the record. gentle lady from north carolina. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and i want to thank our witnesses today for their frank contributions to this very useful discussion. we had a similar hearing on this issue last congress. at that time i hadn't yet come to a position on this issue.
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but after studying the issue and hearing the perspectives laid out at that hearing and today, i believe a move to biennial budgeting is premature. particularly if it is not paired with additional budget process reforms. each day my constituents cry out for congress to use, quote, the power of the purse. unfortunately, it is clear that after congress' consistent surrender of legislative power of the president over the past few decades, the power of the purse has become illusionary at best. a budget process document prom the peterson pew commission on budget reform stated that a con of biennial budgeting would be that it delegates authority to the executive. we will not see an effective power of the purse restored to its rightful place with congress by cutting in half the
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opportunities congress has to utilize it. eliminating the budget appropriations process every other year would also run counter to our emphasis on regular order. members of the house support regular order because it gives congress several opportunities to influence the outcome of legislation and policy. ceasing consideration of appropriations bills covering the full spectrum of federal agencies that generally eventually pass in some form and that are typically considered under an open process would disempower members. while they may have the opportunity to weigh in on an authorizing legislation, past experience shows us that legislation is less frequently enacted and has a far less immediate impact. finally, we have to admit the
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real problem, and it is not [ inaudible ] since we've done it repeatedly both executive agencies and congress clearly have the staff and expertise to do an annual budget process. the truly scarce resource is political will. when congress has failed to complete the appropriations process in the past, it's been because it has feared making the tough decisions necessary and punted to future years. my colleague on the rules committee and chairman of the hhs appropriations subcommittee i think has rightfully stated the issue. i'll admit there would be frustrations included in completing the process on time, such as late votes or working on the weekends, but those would be worthy investments and genuinely fulfilling our responsibility to
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our constituents. there's certainly reforms to the budget and appropriations process that could make it more effective, such as reconsidering the number of appropriations bills or implementing no budget, no pay permanently. i'm very supportive of the budget committee's work to reform the budget act and hope we are able to strengthen congress' role in the budget process and produce pressure points that force congress and the president to confront our fiscal realities. perhaps in that context, a discussion on biennial budgeting could have merit, but it must be accompanied by the president's return to congress the power of the purse and acceptance of new limitations on his authority. and i agree, this is not a partisan issue.
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it is not associated only with this president. but with all presidents. so, i, again, thank my colleagues. i think already the testimony has raised some important new issues on why don't we have ways and means bring entitlement reform to the floor. for us to deal with. i'm frankly tired of explaining to people that our real problem is not the annual spending, which is only one-third of what we spend each year, but is truly in what is called the automatic pilot spending that's going on. i hate -- i hate two words that are used often, and i really won't even say them. one is the m-word and the other one is the e-word. and i honestly don't like those words at all.
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because, again, they're not in the constitution. we have the discretion every year in this body and in the senate to decide what money should be spent, and frankly, we should be doing that every year instead of putting anything on automatic pilot. i am -- you know, my first month here i made that speech. i couldn't believe people were talking about how we divide these two spending pots. but anyway, i think it's really important. i think it's very important that we highlight this every chance we get for the american public and that we be held accountable to do something about this. i'm big on that, too. i do have some questions i'd like to ask, and i'll start again with my colleague from the
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rules committee, who is also on the appropriations committee. mr. cole, those who have concerns biennial budgeting, and some of that has been talked about today, i think should identify other potential improvements to the process. but you're so intimately aware of the existing process, would you make some other suggestions on ways to improve the appropriations process? again, i think the issue that was brought up today about doing something about the bills that are on automatic -- or the spending that's on automatic pilot. but would you make some other suggestions. >> they would be very technical and really i think around the edges. i'd like to see all the amendments preprinted and so that we know what's coming. i think that makes it easier to estimate the amount of time. i think it minimizes the tendency to do gotcha
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amendments. i think they'll happen. members have to have the courage to vote up or down on things. the other side or people with on different point of view on your own side will have the opportunity to ask difficult votes on amendments. that's fine. but you have to have the courage to do it. second, you know, this is just me, but i would never allow a continuing resolution. i would get rid of that -- that is the big abdication of responsibility. i will tell you three years ago when we operated by a continuing resolution, and as my friend pointed out there's a big difference between an omnibus and a continuing resolution. an omnibus, at least those have all gone through committee and subject to amendment. it's not an automatic pilot sort of thing. but a number of years ago when we did this, and i say this with no -- no particular animus toward anybody, but the appropriations committee wasn't even consulted.
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that was a leadership decision to do a continuing resolutions without talking to the chairman of the appropriations committee. they had no idea what they'd given up. they had no earthly idea how much power they had ceded to the executive branch. if you want to make people do the job, make them do the job. don't give them an easy way out. and i would mandate -- again, this is just, you know, that those bills as soon as they're marked up in committee, that they move to the floor immediately. there's no sense holding them around because there's going to be -- let's get them to the floor and find out whether or not. last point i would make is -- and i'm not exactly sure the mechanism. but we've got to -- got to sit down and decide this whole issue of riders and what's appropriate and what's not. again, it's appropriate to me if we're talking about managing money inside of an agency. if we're attaching lots of other things to them or limiting that agency, that's fine.
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when we go in to other areas where, again, if you can't move it across the floor in a straight-up bill out of an authorizing committee, why in the world do you think we're going to be able to get it through an appropriations committee? sometimes we can. but this leads to much more dysfunction than it does to actually reaching a policy objective, so i would recommend that we sit down and study those. but those are just, again, at the end of the day, i think you hit it precisely in your testimony, this is a question of political will and political courage. and this is also a question of going into areas that are, quote, the third rail and all the entitlement and all the tax areas and having the courage to vote. and, you know, the appropriations process will, you know, in so far as it is dysfunctional, it's largely dysfunctional because we have problems, i would argue, in other areas. the committee actually does its work pretty well, when it's allowed to do its work. >> well, i want to say to you --
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and i should have said this at the beginning, that i do compliment the appropriations committee for having done its work last year and getting every bill out. and i agree with you. it's unfortunate that we were not able to get votes on all of that legislation. so, i want to compliment all of you for doing that. and i want to say to my colleagues, i know that mr. ribble has pointed out that there is bipartisan support for this legislation. but there's also bipartisan opposition to this legislation. and i very much appreciate dr. price's comments today. and particularly our colleague mr. hastings. i think he and i find ourselves sort of in the same place, and i always think it's important that we highlight that when -- because people think we always disagree on everything, and i think it's important. mr. mcclintock, you talked a little bit about your concerns and you're always so articulate.
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i always learn from you when you speak. but we've talked a lot about the congress' role in the budget process, but i think we agree that the president is the major impediment to this process as well. and i think the comprehensive reforms your committee's undertaking are vital. would you -- would you give a little more of your thoughts on how we can ensure the president and executive branch give back some of the power to congress and make constructive contributions to the process? >> again, the term regular order is thrown around here a lot. i hope it doesn't lose its meaning because it refers to a process that's evolved -- it was established in the constitution. it's evolved over two centuries of practice to be a pretty good way to resolve differences among very diverse opinions and to separate the powers of government in a manner that
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preserves our liberty. the president's role in the budget is the chief executive officer of the country, of the country's government, i should say, is to estimate what does he think it's going to take to faithfully execute the laws that he is responsible for administering. once he's done that, the president has no role in the process. from then on, it is the sole prerogative of the representatives of the people to decide how much money we will give him to run the government. he then enters the process at the very end by deciding whether to sign or veto that legislation. i think we short-circuit that separation of powers when we hold behind closed-door meetings between legislative leaders the president. certainly there's going to be a constant stream of discussions
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going back and forth. but congress needs to restore its role in the most important function it serves, and that is to appropriate the moneys necessary to run the government. >> thank you very much. mr. ribble, one -- if you can do this fairly quickly. i don't want to abuse my colleagues' time, but you -- your reasoning for this, you say, is that it would help us do our appropriations process better. but if we haven't been able to complete 12 appropriations bills by september 30th in past years, why do you think that this change would make it more effective to change the process, not the frequency of the process? what is it about this that would make the appropriations process
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better? >> sure. thank you for the question. i recognize that right now the system is so badly broken it's not getting done at all. i would accept the fact that under a biennial appropriations and biennial budget system that it might actually take a bit longer to get done. if you would add enforcement trigger that requires the congress to put in the requisite number of days to do the american people's work, there's adequate time in the calendar to do this work, whether you're doing it annually or biennially. the one thing that amazes me in all this is the lack of acceptance of fact that the bulk of this arithmetic. it really is just arithmetic. and arithmetic's not all that complicated to be honest with you. you're adding and subtracting and you're adjusting the numbers based on requests from the executive branch. and so the time that we have is there. we choose by our congressional calendar to not put the will of the american people first and their priorities first in our calendar, but to put the
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members' convenience first on the calendar. all we have to do is change the calendar, and we would have the time. mr. mcclintock very articulately stated this just moments ago. and so it's not for lack of -- i hear the lack of will and all that, i get all that a little bit. but we -- we put ourselves deliberately in a three-day workweek. and when you have a three-day workweek, you're going -- you're not going to get stuff done. maybe we should do what the american people do, work five days a week. and sometimes if you don't get work done, work a little bit of overtime and actually do the american people's work. there's time to do it. it's mathematics. >> well, thank you very much. but i will have to tell you that i work a seven-day week, and it -- i really do take offense at the notion that you have to be in washington to be working.
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i do not believe -- i work just as hard on the days we are not in washington as when we are in washington. and so i get very frustrated by that approach that if we're not in washington, we're not working. >> duly noted, madam vice chair. the problem is when we're gone, we turn it over to staff, we turn it over to leadership rather than to members. >> but, again, please don't keep saying to the american people that if we're not in washington we're not working. because i -- i think most of us when we're at home are listening to the people we represent, participating in activities that are important for us to participate in, and learning the kinds of things that we need to learn. because everybody can't come to washington to tell us what it is we need to know. and so i really do take offense at the fact that we have to be in washington to be working.
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and i think that -- that hurts the image of the congress of the united states and is one of the factors that makes us have such a low rating. frankly, i cherish the time in the district. not because i'm home with my family, but because i am with the constituents. and so i think we can -- we can walk and chew gum at the same time, at least most of us can. thank you. >> our history would prove that we're not -- >> thank you very much. i don't mean to beat up on mr. ribble, but this past weekend i happened to go on the same day running errands to the bank, the grocery store, and to the cleaners. and in each place, i wound up there as many as 15 or 20 minutes talking with people who had all sorts of questions. and i'm sure you have the same thing.
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so really our job is almost 24/7. but i take your point, and i'm sure doctor parks does, too. but i join her in saying that, you know, the one point that you made that i really like is that we should do overtime. and when we do overtime, i think we should get paid time and a half. >> i wouldn't go that far. [ laughter ] >> maybe we can get some -- mr. chairman thank you so much for enter into the record the information that mr. wilson brought to us from the bipartisan policy. i think it's very informative. additionally i'd like to compliment our witnesses. we have a rule that witnesses are supposed to prepare and present their testimony in advance of a hearing. and it helps us to be informed. in this case, the outstanding witnesses that have appeared here, our colleagues, have done that.
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and i can say to them that i read their testimony and heard their testimony as well and i'm deeply appreciative. mr. chairman, if you would permit me just a moment of personal privilege, joining my staff this week is a young lady from australia. there is a program -- i don't know how many of you participate in it. if you do not, then i would urge that you give consideration to it. it's euny capital washington. brings australian students here to work with congress people. and there usually are as many as 15 of them. and i've had the good fortunate for seven years of having one of those interns. and today with me liz from melbourne is one of those persons who is joining us. and she has informed me that australia has annual budgeting.
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and mr. schrader, i wanted to ask you, when you were commenting, you used the term at that time, when you were in the senate mr -- have they changed their budgetary process or is it still in? >> it's a modified hybrid at this point in time. i fought going to any sort of annual sessions. i'm a fairly fiscally responsible member of the oregon legislation. what they do is they solve a biennial annual budget but there is tweaking that goes on in between. i think that's fine. and that's probably the type of approach i recommend we do here. there is nothing in what mr. ribble and i are proposing that would say the appropriations committee is not meeting every single year. it is a matter of focus and where can their attention be best laid to make sure they are best getting at what's going on and not hamstringing the agencies from doing their job. >> i ask for unanimous consent to introduce the statement that
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occurred before the committee on budget back in november of the you are ban institute, and rudolph pittman is the person's testimony that i would like introduced. >> without objection. >> thank you very much. he says it was his personal experience working at cbo and in the executive branch that the most intense group in the programs where he had some responsibility came in the # annual appropriations process. moving to a two-year budget might reduce rather than intensify that insight. and another one, if you would permit me unanimous consent to include, the school of public policy testimony at that same hearing of philip joyce. >> without objection. >> thank you very much. and mr. joyce says -- he says
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that -- speaking to chairman price and ranking member van holidayen and members of the budget committee, thank you for inviting me to share my views on proposals to create a biennial budget preform amendment. this is hardly biennial. in fact i've lost count going back 25 years as my analyst. additionally, mr. chairman, he's skeptical that these are positive effects realized. and i won't go further into it, but i found it instructive. david leerman is the editor of budget cq.com, and i'd ask unanimous consent to put in the record his views which don't address biennial budgeting but
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the annual budgeting. and the title of it without reading anything from it is impossible dream. i ask unanimous consento include that in the -- >> without objection. >> thank you very much. >> i'd ask any of you to respond to what happens when economic, environmental, or other circumstances change dramatically from year to year. how would agency budgets respond? and i invite either or all of you now to give me your views on that. >> the same way they do right now. the congress doesn't give up its part of the purse. they can do what they want if they can get 218 members in the house and the senate to agree and send to the white house. >> that's the antithesis of good budging. ad hoc patchwork, temporary measures are the absolute opposite of what good budgeting is. you know, continue mr. schrader's analogy from earlier,
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that family that has run up an enormous debt and struggles to make ends meet and goes to a credit counsellors is not going to say let's look at what you are going to make ten years from now and let's spend it now. what that counsellor is going to say is how much are you making this month, how much are you spending and how can we try to bring those two together? you do it on the shortest possible basis. you don't expand it. as yogi berra once said, pre-dkss are difficult especially when they involve the future. >> with all due respect, what that credit counselor is going to tell them is a plan to reduce their debt over a period of time. he is going to give them a budget horizon that's going to be working and meaningful to them. that's what we're talking about, setting a time horizon for the investments that are going to change every year. to mr. ribble's point and the ranking member's question, i
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think how we adjusted the va budget last year is a good example how we can change things if something comes up that's serious. >> let me ask mr. price, there seems to be a strong desire among many members to return to -- and keep hearing it, and i think -- this is on both sides when we speak of regular order in the house or of the least to move away from so-called top-down decision making structure. would biennial budgets serve this purpose? >> no. i think they would move away from this purpose. and i stressed a couple of respects in which that would almost certainly happen. one. mr. ribble, the mechanisms would probably remain the same but the
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frequency of usage. need for reprogramming, supplemental appropriations. i've done a lot of reprogramming requests as ranking member on homeland security. and we are very conscientious about those things. but i would never say that's a transparent process. it is a regrettable adjustment sometimes that we have to make sometimes on short notice, regrettable in the sense that it's not subject to the full process that appropriations goes through. the second way this would not serve the regular order is the way it jacks the decision making up to leadership in both parties. >> mr. price, you testified that moving oversight into a second
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year of a biennial budgeting cycle would actually degrade -- i was here five years ago: can you elaborate on congress' ability to conduct effective oversight with your experience? >> well, the conduct of oversight is perennially discussed in this body as to how to make it more effective, more consequential. i believe what i said in my testimony. the most effective oversight that i've seen, appropriations is the epitome of oversight. and the main for that is it is tied to actual funding decisions. you know, we work with the house democracy partnership, with parliamentarians from all over
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the world. and they regularly express amazement at the potency of the power of the purse. they are in great envy, often, of the kind of leverage that the power of the purse gives the congress to shape policy. and that's -- that's tied to the actual funding decisions that are made each year and those aren't just funding decisions. often there will be -- often there will be conditions attached to funding. you know? you are going to produce a report that is overdue or you are not going to get the money. or you're going to do, in the case of homeland security, you are going to produce a cost benefit analysis of each segment of that border fence and what the alternatives are and how this spending is justified before you spend the money, before you get the money. now, those things would be much move less frequent, less
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effective in a biennial setting. that's all i can same i think it would change the process in very significant and mainly negative ways. >> i'll make a comment mr. chairman and ranking member. >> go ahead. >> i think it's not that the executive branch would have more power here. clearly under the cr, which i think is an abomination, they continue spending with no oversight, no ability for us in congress to change the priorities that we think need to be changed. cr is bad. that's what we're doing now. let's not pretend that we are appropriating judicially every year. four years, we've done it four times. similarly, with an omnibus, any of us get consulted? no. that's a deal cut with the president of the united states. we give away our power every time we do an omnibus. i would suggest again that going to biennial budgeting where we look at the tough issues and maybe it takes longer like has been talked about here but congress, republicans and democrats get together, make those tough decisions set those
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top lines so our appropriate ator friends can know what the score is two years in advances. >> thank you very much mr. ranking member. there is an enormous difference between a cr and an omnibus. now, i would grand grant my friend's point that not every member got to participate the way mr. price and i wish they could. with a bill on the floor and an amendment. but an omnibus, we've gone through the full committee so the bill represents the position of the house. if you think the executive branch has everything it wants under an omnibus, go compare the original budget with the budget we passed. you will find there are places where it has been plussed up beyond what he asked for and you will find there are areas where there is less money. and you will find there are restrictions where that can be used.
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last point. under cr we do very little favors to the executive branch. while they have a great dole of latitude they are required and will make exceptions but we make it difficult for them to manage changing circumstances. i think cr is a two-edged sword. yeah, it diminishes congress' influences but also diminishes the executive branch the ability to manage effectively because we could never put enough anomalies in the crs to adjust for the adjustments that need to be made in the budget. >> thank you for the indulgence of time. i will end. but i had so many other questions. i wanted to point to one aspect under 1610 a new president would have to ask for or present his or her budget request for the next two years within weeks of entering the white house.
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and he or she wouldn't get a chance to do produce another budge for two years. presidents generally haven't provided the full detail under the existing timetable for an annual budget. and i was going to ask that you realistically think that they could do that for biennial. one other question that i will ask a response to is the budget resolution requires attention to the nondiscretionary parts of the budget. how will a shifting to every other year help congress focus on a sustainable fiscal policy? mr. ribble, you have last word from me. >> thank you mr. ranking member. on your first question, best to ask the president because he supports it as did every president since ronald reagan.
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to your second point, regarding oversight on nondiscretionary or mandatory spending what this is more likely to do is open up floor time that we actually can bring things to the floor and the congress can focus its efforts on these very things. all summer, all this summer we are going to spend every week doing appropriations and it is a very important piece of work this body does. we have 81 workdays in washington, d.c. this year. 81. that's it. and so getting to what you need to get at, you get at by opening up that congressional counter so you can do it. >> gentleman yields back. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to say to the panel i've been in congress two years. this has been the best discussion i have heard since i've been in congress. i appreciate the quality on all sides. let me get to my questions.
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mr. ribble i am a co-sponsor for your bill. so you know how i feel about it. mr. hastings made an interesting proposal -- i'm not sure it was a full proposal but it was an interesting thing to consider about trying this out in some part but not in whole part. one of the things that caused me to be a co-sponsor of your bill is i'm on the armed services committee. i hear from the folks at dod all the time how difficult it is for them to do their jobs knowing one year at a time, particularly buying major weapons systems that will last several years. what about the ideas of starting with just defense on a two year cycle. see how that works? is that something that undermines completely your concept? or is it something we might talk about? >> i don't know the answer to that question. you are the first person that's brought it up. but i would defer to chairman thornbury and maybe start by asking him the question, would you prefer a two-year authorization bill?
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you know, there's always this discussion about whether does the budget line up with our authorizations? it doesn't. it does in some cases where you do annual authorizations. we just passed a five year highway bill, five year farm bill. we often authorize things that go beyond the budget window. but i can tell you the house armed services committee in large numbers supported this idea for the reason you articulated. particularly on the large weapons systems that you want to buy over time, that broader window certainly helps our department of defense sourcing agents to save the dollars there. >> as we go through this, since mr. hastings made that as something for us to think -- it's something for us to think about. mr. schrader you had me going right with you until you got to the end of your comment. your point was if we are doing it every two years then in the
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year we are not doing it the agencies are able to to do their job. there are some of us in kong that worry about what the agencies are doing when they are, quote, doing their jobs. one of the criticisms of a two year approach is that it detracts from congress' ability to provide true oversight and control of what a lot of us think are out of control departments in the federal government. i didn't want you to have made that point and have lost me on your point without an opportunity to respond. >> thank you very much. my point -- i speak from experience. there are a lot of theories going on. think tanks about what this may or may not do. i experienced biennial budgeting in the state of oregon. i changed the budget process from one of just looking and doing the caseload by how i felt about the agency to one where it was outcome based. they had certain goals, parameters they had to hit at certain times.
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while the budget year, when we are doing the appropriationings and budget together, it was all consuming just to get through all the agencies in a thoughtful manner like i'm sure our appropriations friends do and our budget committee negligence do when they try to do the budget. very detailed. to get into the details of the program, to hold those agencies accountable, that was almost impossible. almost impossible to go into the programs in any degree of detail. i know we have more staff in the united states congress than we did in the great state of oregon. but to get into that level of detail and hold those agencies accountable, this outcome based budging done where you had the biennial budget and you were able in the off years as the appropriations committee or some of the budget committee to really get at how is this going? how are they using their cellphones? how is that weapons system going. let's have hearings on that. that's where my guys could get into the meat of it and really hold them accountable. if there was a problem we would provide an adjustment based on the investigations.
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it provided much greater accountability without hamstringing them for their day to day duties. >> dr. price? dr. price was one of the most eminent professors at the university when i was there. and i want to point out that he was very, very very young at the time. i didn't have this until i came to congress. you taught your students to think on both sides of the issues. sort of challenged that side. let me challenge you a bit. clearly, you would agree that what we're doing now is not working. so let me ask you if their proposal will not fix the problem we have because it's not working, what will work?
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>> i wish i had a neat answer for you. >> you would give me an f at duke if i had said that. >> [ laughter ] >> let me tell you what i would give you at least a b for. [ laughter ] >> what i think this discussion calls for actually and i was hoping i would have a chance to say this, is a warning against overestimating the effects of any institutional tinkering that we might ever come up with. okay? and this goes back to the point about -- about the political will. i don't -- of course structures matter. rules matter. and we need to refine our structures and our rules. about i do believe that the process we're talking about, the power of the purse, which historically has been an institutional power, no matter who the president is, no matter which party is in charge -- and it's an institutional power that i think demonstrably has worked better when it's not highly partisan, when it's cooperative.
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when the institution presents a united front. that process is extremely difficult under conditions of sharp polarization. okay? and that's what has made appropriations difficult for a long, long time. especially the last five years. but before that. i remember as homeland security chairman -- i remember a markup being canceled on two hour's notice because of fireworks to come in the full committee. and i -- i disagreed with that political caution that was expressed on our side of the aisle. i understood it, but i disagreed with it. and just to differ a bit from what my friend mr. cole said. he's right of course that we can often agree on the numbers and the riders, the extraneous riders are the problem. but i do think with these budget resolutions we've had in recent
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years the numbers are also the problem. i'd say there are three years where political polarization makes the work hard. yes, the riders. secondly, the amendments that come up with the bills. for years, bipartisan homeland security bills were rendered partisan by virtue of amendments, usually on issue of immigration and the kind of political restraint, political compromise that was required to avoid that outcome simply wasn't forthcoming. so these bills became partisan bills where we had worked for months -- months on a careful bipartisan basis. that's -- there are reasons -- we understand why that happens. i find it regrettable. and finally the top line numbers. the top line numbers that have been involved in these budget resolutions have simply been impossible to appropriate to.
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now, mr. cole is right. we've managed to move the allocations, front load them and managed to get bills through committee. i think chairman rogers has done a wonderful job of that. certain number of bills have been bipartisan, made it through the floor process. others very hard to write. we've had three years now at the end of the day to avoid a government shutdown we've had to revisit those resolutions and revise those numbers. those are the ways that political division and political polarization make our work difficult if we see our work as maintaining some kind of institutional effectiveness with respect to the executive branch, with respect to appropriations. nothing that i've said would be affected very much by the kind of institutional tinkering we're talking about here. so i -- that's what i mean when i say it's a political challenge. i'm not glib about that. i know we're going to have disagreements.
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we've got to welcome those disagreements. but we've also got to contain them somehow and not let them undermine the basic work of the institution. and so that's why i believe the answer to your question is to say that at the end day this is a political process and we've got to make your politics work better. >> thank you, sir. mr. cole, there is a rule in the house that says that we are not supposed to appropriate any money to something that's not authorized. yet we do it all the time because we waive that rule in the rule that's passed out of this committee. and then when that rule's on the floor we adopt it on the floor. now i've heard from the staff that's told us if we do that, we lose our bargaining position with the senate. and so it's not smart for us not to waive the rule.
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but as an old defense lawyer, judge, i always liked bargaining from zero. and i'm wondering why it's not a good idea for us to stop waiving that rule and force the authorizing committees -- and i'm on authorizing committees so i'm not pointing the finger at anybody other than myself. and force the authorizing competents to do their job. the armed services committee does its job every year. every year, we pass that nationalefense authorization act. we go all day and all night, into the next morning. and so i know it's hard work. and by golly it's sure not fun staying up all night. but we get it done. and maybe if we just -- on this committee said we are not going to waive it anymore and said to the rest of the people in congress, we need to quit doing this and get the authorization work done, why isn't that the way to get it done here. >> there is considerable
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sentiment on the appropriates committee to do exactly what you suggest. because we don't like appropriating to agencies that haven't been reauthorized. the practical problem is simple. we haven't reauthorized spending in the state department in 40 years. do you want to shut down every department in the world. we went eight years without authorizing no child left behind, which thankfully the congress did last year in a bipartisan way. would we have stopped all federal aid to education? the appropriators have tried to do this. mr. simpson, when he chaired tried to do this on endangered species act to force natural resources to reauthorize that act. they couldn't get it done. there was too much contention on the committee as to what it should be. so we are 20 years down the road with a program that's never been reauthorized and a program where i've added species to but i think we've only taken one or two off.
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again, from an appropriate ators standpoint if you can find a way to mick it stick that would make your lives a lot easier. but we are faced with the problem are we going to literally shut down 30, 40% of the federal government? that becomes a decision the body has to make collectively and leadership of the two parties. it is a high stakes game. >> i would observe there would be a lot of people in the united states of america that would be okay. >> until it affects them. >> there are some parts of the government that doesn't affect them. >> how many times does your office get contacted to expedite a visa or help somebody get a passport? if all of a sudden the state departments is shut down, or in my part of the world there is a lot of drilling on federal land. if all of a sudden you couldn't get the permitting -- i just -- i agree with what you are trying to do. i think that's worthy of discussion.
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i just think people need to have a very clear idea of what the consequences to doing that are. and they are extreme. >> if i can interrupt you for a second i'm going to yield to mr. polous. because he has to go down and handle a rule on the floor. >> thank you. i was anxiously watching the clock. i do have about five minutes before i have to go down there. and i appreciate the opportunity as this is a important institutional matter for this body. and i want to applaud the chair for holding this hearing. we don't get to hold many hearings in the rules committee. we have regular amendment hearings but we don't have too many for our jurisdiction. and it is a rare part of the regular order that we get to do this. nobody here of our witnesses has said what we are doing now works. i think if we look for areas of agreement here, i think we all agree that it doesn't work for individual members.
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it doesn't work for the country. it doesn't work for the committees of jurisdiction. there is a lot of problems with it. for that reason, i've been a strong supporter of going to the biennial budgeting process. there are arguments on both sides. this could work, that could work. i think at the end of the say the fact is what we are doing has so dismally failed, there is a good reason to change. if they are or changes that members want to bring forward, by all means, bring them forward. some of those changes are good. some are bad. i was thinking of asking for time briefly when dr. fox was talking to dr. cole will limiting the scope of appropriations amendments because things should go through regular order. that has been a great frustration of us as members that things don't go through regular order. and it's markups in committee are very, very rare.
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and the way our colorado legislature works is -- and i think to its credit -- is bills get a hearing and a markup in committee. they fail sometimes. that's fine, too. i can't remember the last time a bill failed in committee around here. that should be a regular outcome of regular order. it failed in committee. doesn't get advanced to the floor. that's normal. let them have a markup. for majority and minority members. and the fact that you can't even get markups in committee and i've served on several committees over the years. i've served on the judiciary and the workforce committee. i can tell you for those who serve on committees, markup are rare in any of these committees. their more common in natural resources because there are small matters involving land matters. i don't see what the fear is. let bills that don't have the support of the committee die in committee if they don't have the support.
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but let them have a chance. that's the way our colorado legislature did it. i think that's the way california legislature does it. bills die in committee. that's regular order. it's not scary. it's nromal. the fact it's so seldom if ever, how can it be that a bill never died in committee? i remember one or two being withdrawn because there was a morbid fear of them not having enough votes, that was when democrats were the majority when that happened. i can think of one when the republicans were in the majority as well, it is not a partisan thing. i do want to ask mr. ribble and mr. schrader that how a biennial process could better the process? >> i might refer you to -- everyone has at their desk a graphic from the washington post.
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we talk right now about the system that works and been very eloquent defense of an annual system. and yet over the last three years or i would say if we actually drove it to the date of the five, maybe even ten all that over sight that's currently happening hasn't been able to prevent federal agencies from spiking their budge by 30 billion in week 52. by going to an biennial process you are going to cut that use it or lose it mentality. i spent four years on the budget committee. rarely did they have an agency come in and defend why they wanted x number of dollars. they could do that under this proposal. >> i have three minutes to get down to the floor. i have a question i want to pose
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to both of you. i think we all agree that the omnibus represents a failure of this institution to do its work. nobody has testified we should be doing things through an omnibus. i agree. i voted against it. that we should be doing work with the omnibus. i agree. i voted against it for that reason. even measures that pass as appropriations amendments mysteriously wind up excluded or included with very little vibt to members as to why. there's measures that passed because of some discussion that none of us know about in some room are not in the final omnibus. there's others that we never voted on are in there. it's a very bad process for the country. not transparent. not democratic, small "d," judgement terrible process. how can going to a biennial budgeting process reduce the likelihood of having to cobble together these terrible omnibuses to continue to maintain the operations of
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government? >> with the two-year time horizon, the budget becomes a much more important document than it is right now. right now as has been pointed out by everybody here it's pretty much a messaging document. people put their slides on the wall and talk about what it will do to the debt or deficit or the poor children out there in this great country of ours. those top line numbers start to matter big time. and rather than let the president negotiate with the leadership at the end of the year and we're just about to go into default and have our poor appropriations people guess at what might be those numbers at the end of the day because they're not real when they're set by the budget committee on an annual basis, this would be a lot more gravgravitas. i would hope that the way to get around executive orders whether it's george bush or barack obama is to have a real serious budget discussion about what those numbers should be and set those
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through to allocations up front so that our folks on the appropriations both democrat and republican say, yep, this is what we agreed to at least over this time horizon. let's get the job done. they work well partisanly together. we've heard that today. we've seen that over the years. i served in this great body. let's let them do their job and i think have that battle up front like my state does when we did the biennial budgeting and let the appropriations process work like it's supposed to. >> in line with the discussion of regular order, i want to ask the chairman if we, you know, plan to move to markup of this bill in this committee at some point in the next few weeks or months. >> the ranking and member and i talked about doing additional hearings on this bill. at the completion of those we'll have the mark-up. >> wonderful, great. that's the regular order, right? and there's too little of it in this body and i'm proud to see it in this instance.
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there's too a littlittle of tha. let people have their say and let them vote and you're done and you'll find there's many issues with people on both sides of the aisle have diffing opinions and we'll continue to gather information through additional hearing. move to a markup process and individual members on the committee will decide whether to advance it to the floor. i hope they do. this should not be the end of reforming this process either. i hope those that oppose this come up with ideas that they bring to this committee if it's in our jurisdiction or in other committees if it's in other jurisdictions. it's not working institutionally or for the country and i agree completely and i think it would have near unanimity with members of this body and members of the public if that's the case. let's change something. i'm for this. would consider other ideas, too, and i appreciate the indulgence here on the time as i have my other responsibilities as a member of this committee to attend to and i yield back.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. if i could go back and finish up. i have two comments. people in my district would be delipeted for the endangered species act not to be funded or enforced. there's a proposal to declare as a endangered specie the eastern diamondback rattlesnake which is not endangered but if it's declared to be so would have a detrimental effect on a number of industries. my second observation is this and this is different from being in congress but it's not different in terms of human behavior. i spent over 30 years as a litigator. and when we had cases in state court where we didn't have good, firm rules and had some judges you didn't want to stand on them, cases would go on forever. because lawyers will just go unless you give them a deadline. in federal court the federal
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judges had hard and fast rules and they enforced them and a case that would take two or three years in state court would get done a year or less in federal court because we'd force it on people. you hear lawyers in state court i can't get my case done on time, it would be a disservice to my client. the same lawyer in federal court would get his job done, because he had to. if we had to and it forced us to do it, i just got to believe human behavior being what it is, you give us a darn deadline and hold us to the deadlines we'll do the job. just two observations. do you want to respond to that? >> just quickly. i couldn't agree this more. i've seen this when i was in the legislature in oklahoma. firm s.t.a.r.t., firm end. couldn't go on past the end of may and, gosh, guess what we passed just as many laws all work got done. i agree with that. all i'm saying is that's not a decision you want the appropriations committee to make unless you tell us to make it.
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if you want to do that, that is great. i mean, again, it sure makes it a lot easier if we only appropriate to what's been thorpe authorized. it makes our job easier. again, all i'm saying is you're going to have to tell all the members, okay, this is what we're going to do now going forward. >> i think that would have to be set. everybody would have to know at the beginning of the year this is what's going to happen. appropriators don't appropriate unless it's been authorized. take that. the last question. i'm holding up my friend mr. newhouse here. mr. mcclintock, a lot of us think that to some extent we're just rearranging the chairs on the "titanic" because if we don't do something about entitlement spending there won't be anything left to appropriate, for defense, for natural resources, anything. is there some way we can do something with the budgeting and appropriation process that would
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address that? the budget that we passed this year we addressed entitlements. in the omnibus passed in december we did not. because we don't appropriate entitlements. what can we do to get control over entitlement spending using the budget process, the appropriations process, something that's involved? >> as you know the overall architecture for both the mandatory and discretionary spending is set by the budget not byriationappropriations. they deal with the reconciliation side. the reconciliation instructions are necessary to produce the legislation to fit all the spending mandatory and discretionary within the parameters set by the budget. so, going for my one year to a two-year process literally cuts in half our opportunities to address thesie issues. ultimately it's a human process
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as you just pointed out and it only works in concert with our own human nature. we've discussed a great deal about the importance of returning to regular order. we've discussed a great deal about the importance of deadlines and actually producing results. isn't this a warning to all of us that the problem with our budget process is not its annual nature but rather a number of other issues that desperately need to be addressed. ribble mentioned one in particular, the importance of staying together and talking to one another when we miss a deadline. we're human beings. we can't resolve our differences if we're not talking to each other and if you keep us here long enough, eventually we will resolve those differences. when we scatter to the four winds, we can't. we might be work very hard but we aren't working on the impasses that develop. this brings me to the principle concern of the budget committee,
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and that is we are absolutely committed to bring a full reform package to the floor this year. we are very concerned that a patchwork approach to this problem will send all of us away saying, okay, we've dealt with that, we'll go on to other things when the principal problems remain unaddressed. and the fact that we spent so much time today not talking about the annual nature of the budget process but a whole bunch of other factors should be a warning to us that that's what we need to address. >> i think all of you -- let me make one final observation quoting my favorite political philosopher, jesus of nazareth. he said, where your treasure is, so your heart be also. we have a piece of the treasure of the people of the united states. i hope we all have enough humility to know we don't have all of that and they get to spend that which we don't need and there's a lot that we don't need that they should be spending.
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but that part of part of their treasure that we have should follow the will of the people of the united states and i fear we have fallen into the trap of letting the bureaucracy and agencies and departments of the federal government work their will and not the will of the people and i hope we'll come up with some process to address that. >> gentleman from washington, mr. newhouse. >> thank you, mr. chairman. after quoting jesus, i'm not sure i have the ability to proceed. but i do appreciate obviously the committee hearing on this very important subject. i would think if i took a poll of people in my district they would think that this ranks right up there as one of the most important subjects that we as a congress can deal with. i would agree with judge hastings. i'm open to this idea. i think the record would show i'm a co-sponsor of the bill. i come from the state of washington. i'm just like mr. schrader, i'm a product of a biennial budget
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system. we did not have the option of continuing resolutions in the state of washington. i don't know if any state does. we stayed in town until we got the job done. sometimes we were in olympia until july when we should have been out of there in the spring. so, it can be done. you know, i do share some reservations that have been expressed today. there have been some great points in much of the testimony that i've heard on both sides and so i appreciate that very much and i agree with some of the comments made that this is the kind of work that needs to be done in committees in order to get down into the meat of the issues and so appreciate you guys doing that today. i will say being from a asset that has a biennial budget process, frankly i think that system is kind of morphed into an annual process to tell you the truth, that we spent almost
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as much time in a supplemental budget year as we do in the year that we write the budget, so i'm not sure what that says about the future of our process in my state, but that's the reality. with the difficulties of running governments these days, it takes a lot more time than it used to. so, the immensity of the federal government certainly falls into that category. we don't get all of the benefits that i've heard talked about. i don't think -- i used to run a state agency, and i heard you mention, mr. ribble, the use it or lose it mentality, it's still there even in the two-year budget cycle, i hate to tell you. it doesn't go away completely. but having said all those thi s things, like i said, this has been a very, very productive conversation, just a couple questions. i don't have one for each of you, but if you want to contribute to an answer, i would
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certainly appreciate hearing from any and all of you. but for the sponsors of the bill, looking through the materials we have, currently we have a timetable, a budget time table, that we're supposed to adhere to. and i suppose there are some penalties for not, but i'm not sure what they are because we don't seem to adhere to it very closely. and so in -- and i don't know if it says specific in the legislation, but does that timetable change? and if it doesn't or even if it does, you know, a rule of government i was told a long time ago that be careful what you -- what space you provide government because it will grow into the space that's provided. so, if we allow a two-year window, even though we have a timetable that is set, as humans as we all are will we not take that amount of time and just use it and make

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