tv Hearing on Improving Budget Appropriations Process CSPAN September 20, 2019 9:39am-11:01am EDT
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sunday night at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span's q & a. >> next, a panel looking at ways to improve the budget process held before the house committee on modernization of congress. congress. >> the meeting will come to order. without objection the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. this hearing is entitled recommendations from previewing the budget and appropriations process. a look at the work of the select committee budget and process reform and i now recognize myself for five minutes to give an opening statement. the 104th congress which convened in 1995 was the last to pass all appropriations bills prior to the start of the fiscal year. that was almost 25 years ago. most house members serving today have never seen a process that works the way it's supposed to where stand alone bills are passed on time. and the joint select committee on budget and appropriations process reform on which i
served, along with my colleague rob woodall was established, and the committee was charged with making recommendations for the budget process. the act of establishing such a committee is acknowledgment the process isn't working the way it should. article 1 section 9 of the constitution says no money should be drawn from the treasure, but by law. this power of the purse is a part of the constitution and constitutionally mandated check on executive power. and when congress fails to pass on time, it cedes power to the executive branch. congress has passed resolutions since 1998. last year, passed 5 cr's and this year congress passed three. that's a lot of time spent dealing with funding decisions, but think of all the time congress would have to focus on other legislative duties if appropriations bills were passed on time. making decisions how to
allocate funding for federal programs is tough work, but it's congress's job. the american people deserve a fully funding government and funding the government is arguably congress's most important job. while the joint committee did not pass a bill, it provided frame work for thinking about reform today. members. committee engaged in serious discussions what it would take to fix the budget and appropriations process and many of the ideas that came out of those discussions are well worth considering and that's our intent today. to talk about problems with the process and potentially areas of agreement where both parties in chambers can find common grounds. while we're focusing on the work of the joint select committee we don't need to limit our selves to the recommendations that that committee considered. i'm looking forward to a lot of ideas from our witnesses today and particular will i grateful to our appropriations chair, and our former budget chair mr. womack who tag teamed for that committee.
with that i'll invite our vice chair tom graves for opening remarks. >> mr. chairman and ranking member for joining us today and the witnesses that are going to be with us and taking time to speak with us today. as co-chairs of the joint select committee i know you worked really, really hard to fix our current funding process and i hope today you know that this hearing is proof that your work lives on. it was not for naught. we are going to work with you and continue building on your work from last year. this select committee has that opportunity and to build on your foundation and so i'm glad you're here to take a part-- be a part of this today and i know that we all want to solve this and hopefully today we can gather ideas and kind of taxol this complex issue. when it comes to the current funding process in congress, i think we all know we can do better. the american people our constituents, they expect us to do better and that we're charged with this important responsibility of using
taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively and i've looked forward to our success as we move forward, mr. chairman. each party, each chair and each runs into a wall of this each time it seems the last couple of years. as one of our witnesses today, mr. owens, has illustrated to the joint select committee last year, to you all's joint select committee more than 20 years since all preparations bills were passed prior to the start of the fiscal year and just 27% of senators have seen the process work and for house members it's only been 16%. we have a lot of appropriators in the room today, myself and the chairman as well. and so i know this problem is personal to each of us, so, as well as to our two at the panel here. obviously appropriators as well. it's been tough for all of us to spend hours in markups and negotiations, and see our work get chewed up by the process.
it's tough to see it discarded by a continuing resolution and tough to go through this year after year after year. so we all have different backgrounds, different perspectives and philosophies, what we have in common is we're trapped in this broken funding process together and i think today's hearing in a bipartisan spirit we get to pick up on efforts you left us with last year, hopefully we'll get a chance to fix this and get out of this broken cycle we're in. thank you, mr. chairman. i look forward to the hearing. >> thank you, we have five witnesses and on the first panel we have representative anita lowey, and representative steve womack, ranking member on the house committee on budget. both served as co-chairs on budget and appropriations process reform and i have great respect and admiration for both of your leadership so thank you for that. and particularly despite this being a very busy week, the they've generously agreed to provide five minutes of testimony and once they're finished we'll give them back
their precious time and move onto the next panel. with that, chairman, you're recognized for five minutes. >> chairman kilmer, vice-chairman graves and members of the select committee, i am pleased to join you this morning to frankly speak with you in a room that's very familiar, familiar faces and to be here alongside ranking member womack, who served with me as the co-chair of the joint select committee on budget and appropriations process reform in the 115th congress. while concerns over a partisan process for senate consideration prevented that committee from reporting out recommendations, house democrats have used the first nine months of our new majority to make important improvement to the budget and appropriations process. i am very pleased to say that one of the most important changes that i advocated for in
the joint select committee raising unworkable budget caps, was achieved on a bipartisan basis in july. because of speaker pelosi's strong leadership, the bipartisan budget act allows us to invest for the people and increase funding for education, health care, and human services. in addition, the bipartisan budget act suspended the debt ceiling, removing this source of uncertainty for families, businesses, and communities across the country. however, as i recommended during the joint select committee process, i would prefer to go further and completely repeal the debt ceiling. it serves no useful purpose other than to create opportunities for brinksmanship that threatens our nation's credit and the health of our economy.
in addition to the bipartisan budget act we have also made important changes to house rules. when our democratic majority took office in january, we adopted a meaningful pay as you go rule that shuts the door on reckless policies like the g.o.p. tax scam. as chairwoman of the appropriations committee i've restored the longstanding practice of adopting 302-b allocations before reporting appropriation bills, an important step toward transparency. to build on these successes and charting a more respected and responsible course for the american people, there are two key legislative changes that i propose making when i led the joint select committee, that would help improve the budget and appropriations process. moving from an annual to a
biannual budget solution, requiring resolution in the first year of congress and allocations for both the first and second years of the biannium and to facilitate actions even if a budget resolution is not adopted, ideally by allowing for concurrent resolution, dealing with 302-a allocations only. although these are outside the scope of this select committee, it is worth noting that i also favored two changes to senate rules that would both the fiscal responsibility in both chambers. restoring the conrad rule, a senate rule that prevented reconciliation lapgs from increasing the deficit in the first ten years and adding a new 60-vote point of order in the senate against
reconciliation instructions and a budget resolution that called for a net deficit increase. in addition, i support technical improvements to better handle cap adjustment items, change the process of calculating baseline projections of emergency spending, and expedite the administration's provision a full year bugetary data. however, even with these changes, the most important element to a successful budget and appropriations process is political will. i'm proud that our democratic majority has shown that political will and taking all responsibilities seriously. that's why our chamber is far ahead of the senate in processing appropriation bills this year finally, i'd like to discuss the elephant in the room, congressionally directed
spending. this select committee on the modernization of congress is tasked with strengthening this institution. nothing could strengthen the article 1 branch of government more than restoring congressionally directed spending. it is imperative that congress exercise its constitutional responsibility in determining how and where taxpayer dollars that we appropriate are spent. the end of congressionally directed spending has led to diminished comity in the house and transferred our authority to the executive branch. returning to earmarking under a strong set of rules to ensure transparency and prevent abuse, would be of immeasurable benefit to this house and to the american people. i hope that we can do so in the months ahead. thank you for inviting me to
testify and best of luck with the select committee. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you for your leadership. rep womack, you're now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman kilmer, vice-chairman graves and members of the select committee. i appreciate the opportunity to before before you today. i'd like to share some perspectives on the work of joint select committee on budget and process reform which i was privileged to co-chair with the distinguished leader of the house committee last year. i look forward to a productive discussion. many members of the house voiced frustrations about the broken budget process. our current process was written in the 1970's. it has been updated with very minor revisions on a few occasions. it does not align with the dynamics of the modern congress, however. last year the joint select committee was tasked with producing legislation to reform the budget process with an
equal number of republicans and democrats and super majority voting threshold. five republicans and five democrats, ten out of 16 members. but still a requirement of five members from each party. this structure guaranteed a concensus driven product. we ultimately produced a bipartisan bicameral reform. annual reconciliation, ensuring realistic deadlines for congress to complete its budget and appropriations work and requiring a joint budget committee hearing on the fiscal state of the nation, why did we fail? we obtained bipartisan and bi cameral support, but didn't reach the super majority threshold. some members voted no, some voted present, a number of those members indicated support for the underlying bill, but
voted present due to an unrelated disagreement among senate leadership. however, the final proposal was developed with input from all the members, the co-chair agreed to the base text and additional amendments were added in the markup with a super majority vote, some with a unanimous vote. bipartisan ideas were found and those should continue to be explored by future reformers. besides examining the process i was pleasantry surprised at republicans and democrats in the house and senate came into deliberations to talk about the debt. to be clear, our group did not try to identify policies to reduce the deficit by a certain amount. what we did discuss extensively is the fact that congress does not use its existing procedures to reduce the debt. we could use regular order or reconciliation, but we simply don't. members expressed interest in a third route one that is perhaps
bipartisan or bicameral. sheldon whitehouse was in this area. and since it's football season, try to get some first downs rather than try to throw a hail mary like we do so often. the joint select committee work product represents a bipartisan and bicameral reform. second we should focus on budget process not budget outcomes. outcomes are specifically levels of funding or proposals to reduce the deficit by a certain amount. process is now congress determine how much to spend or how to determine what policies to enact to reduce the deficit. i'd like to see us modern issize our procedures and set up congress for success
regardless who happens to have the majority at any given time. my goal is to get something enacted into law that improves our process. i'm willing to work with both republicans and democrats in the house and senate to try to do so. finally it's important to acknowledge the importance of the senate in this puzzle. in that vein i c congratulate for reform ideas earlier this summer. before i conclude let me anecdotally say this, there's no better poster child for the challenge confronting the congress of the united states of america than where we happen to be today on funding the government in the beginning of the fiscal year that is less than two weeks away. i challenge this committee and all willing participants in the congress to find solutions that can put congress back on the
track of doing arguably a most important work and i yield back. >> thank you, i wanted to again express my gratitude to you both. you're two of the busiest people in these marble buildings and the fact that you were willing to give us your time and wisdom, i'm very grateful for. so, thank you. >> thank you. >> and with that, we'll now move on to our second panel. our first witness is matthew owens. mr. owens is executive vice-president and vice-president for federal relations at the american association of universities. where he provides strategic leadership and management to the association's priorities. mr. owens also serves on the leadership counsel at convergence, a nonprofit that convenes rids individuals and organizations with divergent views to build trust and alliance on critical issues. in this capacity he served on the building a better budget process to address the often dysfunctional budget process.
the project participants reached concensus on five proposals to improve the process that congress use toss manage the 4 trillion dollar annual budget. william hoglund is a senior at the bipartisan center and helps to manage fiscal help and policy analysis. mr. hoglund searched 33 years in the federal government including 25 years on the u.s. senate staff. from 2003-2007 he served as the director of budget appropriations in the office of senate majority leader bill frist. and the impact of major legislation and helped to coordinate budget for the senate leadership. 1982-2003 mr. hoglund served as a staff member of the budget committee reporting to u.s. senator pete dimminchi.
and finally a specialist in the government and fps division at congressional service. lynch joined crs in 2007 as a pel management fellow and trier to coming to crs worked in the maryland general assembly. witnesses are reminded your oral testimony will be limited to five minutes and without objection statements will be made part of the record. mr. owens you're recognized for five minutes to give oral presentation of your testimony. >> thank you for your opportunity to testify before this important panel. i'm encouraged your work to modernize congress for ways to improve the broken process. i've seen it function in my work for research universities over the past decades. student financial aid decisions are held up and important medical research is delayed and made more complex and time
consuming because congress does not complete in a timely and predictable manner. it wastes time and taxpayers that would be in the universities. ... the first proposal is called budget action plan. it synchronizes the process with the electoral and governing cycles and calls on each new congress to adopt a two-year budget that a site into law by the president. the budget action plan is three required elements in one optional provision. it sets discretion in levels for two years. it lets the debt limit by any
shortfall agreed to in the legislation. third, it authorizes public back report to analyze the impact that enactment of the budget would have on the long-term fiscal outlook. additionally the plan allows congress to option to one reconciliation bill per fiscal year. our second proposal requires cbo to produce a physical state of the nation report. it would be issued during the presidential election cycle and outline keith information about our finances including but not limited to long-term projections for debt, deficits, interest payments, revenues and spending, breakdown of all major revenue sources tax expenditures and essman shortfalls and long-term spending programs. this report would be widely distributed and provided, provide information in reader from the ways to allow non-washington insiders to better understand the budget. we believe this report would provide a full picture of the nation's finances, elevate discussions about the budget and help voters make more informed
choices. our third proposal seeks to reinforce importance of the long-term effects the budget decisions. we propose every four years gao review portfolios of programs that involve long-term or intergenerational commitments. the reviews would cover programs such as education, health care or national security. our fourth propose is to strengthen the budget committees. we agree the stature of the committees need to be restored up and prove their ability to lead the process. we propose the chairs and ranking members of key physical and authorizing committees or their designee serve on the budget committees. we would help ensure those are responsible for carrying out the budget would be vested in the process and trash -- best to support it. we need need resource message t credible high-quality and independent information. our proposals include new responsibilities for these agencies so it's important to have adequate resources.
now, these five proposal will not give the perfect budget process. however, we believe they contain practical and achievable measures i can be developed further to open a process that facilitate informed, unbiased and sound decision-making. we believe our proposals were strong starting point for the joint select committee which incorporate elements of our proposal such as my annual budgeting and change to the budget committee. in closing i will offer a shared among our group. namely, nursing the budget process reform our package of reforms can't by itself remedy the prevailing dysfunction. process reforms alone cannot force congress to reach budget deals. political will is needed. process matters and small or large changes can create ownership and buy-in for new expectations in dorms for budgeting. expectations are low and norms are broken. as was noted, it's been more than 20% all operation bills
were passed prior to the start of the fiscal year. mr. graves, to your point, just 15% of all current members of congress have seen the process work. we believe our proposals can help remedy this. on behalf of the convergence project participants, we wish you success. this panels work is important and we hope you could help implement improvements to congress and the federal budget process. thank you. >> thank you for your testimony and your well wishes. mr. hoagland, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> is it on now? apologize for that. the bipartisan policy center congratulates and applaud the committee for the recommendations you have adopted today. as has been stated the congressional budget process is dead, our current budget procedures, rules, concepts and processes are so complex that members and their staffs and
them hard understand let alone the american taxpayer. over the last 12 years congress failed to adopt eight times, two-thirds of the time, a budget resolution blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year and most recently for the fiscal year that begins in just 11 days. my testimony focuses on one possible solution to getting your work done on a ton better and long debated but never agreed to buy annual budget form proposal come something of course you, mr. chairman, and others are very familiar with having served on the joint select committee last year. at the outset i must know also, mr. chairman, represent albania, newhouse, brooks, though states, washington, indiana and wisconsin joint 20 other states with functioning biannual budget as a look back over the history of the current budget act as early as 1987, a bipartisan agreement between colors and president reagan was reached to
set a two-year cap on discretionary spending. this was followed with similar bipartisan agreement in 1990 and 1997. budget at the 2011 set appropriation caps for ten years through 2021. those were adjusted into your tranches by a bipartisan budget act of 2013, 2015, 2018 and 18 and, of course, most recently 2019. in other words, two years seems to become the opportunity time for congress to abide by any limits to discretionary spending, therefore institutionalizing what has become standard practice seems to be a recommendation that this committee can find consensus around. over the years my own thinking has evolved from not supporting today supporting a split biannual budget appropriation process. the joint select committee recommended the adoption of a a concurrent budget resolution by may 15 of the first session of the congress. the resolution once adaptive have established by annual budget for congress had in place
the top 302a for the following two years. the house appropriations committee was charged with reporting annual appropriation bills each session of the two-year biennium. i believe even if congress could adopt a biennium budget on may 15th in the first session of congress they would still be difficult for the appropriation committee both house and senate to complete action on all 12 appropriation bills before beginning of the next fiscal year. that is what i would've preferred if the 12 appropriation bills were split into half with six been considered the first year of the biennium and six in the second year. i must note the select committee has a revision of the current resolution anytime during the biennium and allow for an annual appropriation bill to be trigger for each of the fiscal years. here may be expressing my own ignorance of the select committees thinking but i'm not clear how one would generate two bills with one biennium budget
resolution. but benefits of biennium budget process are real, long-term planning is developed, predictability, increased opportunity for oversight and authorization, greater flexibility to program managers to realign the resources and increase time program evaluation performance. a couple final comments. skeptics of biannual budget process, incentives are important for congress to do its work. while debating the select committee incented sticks primarily prohibiting adjournment or expenditures on official travel of the budget resolution was not adopted by may 1. those were considered. however, no stick amendments were adopted. i must acknowledge, mr. chairman, that you and mr. woodall did vote for senator ernst stick amendments in that committee. further, the select committee proposal did not include any incentives other than completing appropriations on time. one suggestion is if the appropriation is reach, senate
rules could be adopted to at least eliminate the filibuster on the motion to proceed to consider appropriation bills. finally, what are the recurring criticism of biannual budgeting has been the argument that making accurate projections to use in advance that difficult. nothing in the biennium budget process includes funding for supplemental appropriations if needed for unanticipated and, therefore, unplanned emergencies. one off your supplemental, however, is better for my perspective having to do 12 appropriation bills each year. let me conclude with what has always been stated. so many time-tested, no process changes will make your decision in easter. budgeting is governing and governing is challenging. arguably if you want to find consensus unreasonable doable reforms to the budget appropriation process biannual budgeting should be given serious consideration. >> thank you, mr. hoagland. ms. lynch, you're recognized for five minutes. >> chairman kilmer, vice chairman gray and members, thank
you for inviting me. my name is megan lynch and i'm a specialist -- i am a specialist on congress and the legislative process at the congressional research service. as requested by testimony will touch on two subjects, the work of the 2018 joint select committee and congressional rules and practices related to earmarks. the joint select committee on budget and appropriations process reform was greater in february last year and was charged with developing legislation that would reform the budget and appropriations process. as mentioned the committees membership as well as its recommendations were required to be bipartisan. after about nine months of debate and consideration the committees recommendations were included in the cochairs mark and committee held a markup during which additional recommendations were added as bipartisan amendments. the cochairs mark as amended include recommendations to pertain almost only to the
budget resolution and the budget committees. on the budget resolution the recommendation proposed moving to a biannual eye to resolution as opposed to current requirement for an annual resolution and to preserve congress' ability to use reconciliation annually. it included an optional path for a for a bipartisan budget resolution with special procedures in the senate. it included a revised timetable that would allow for more time for the development of the budget resolution, and it made changes to the budget committee in the house it propose eliminating term limits for house budget committee members proposal and corporate earlier this year into house rules. in this and a proposed expanding the senate budget committee to include the chair and ranking members of the senate committee on appropriations and committee on finance. last, it would've required the house and senate budget committees to hold a a joint hearing on the fiscal state of the nation. someone so why not included in l recommendations the committee
debated and considered many budget process reform proposals, if that include a to lift the earmark moratorium. earmarks are generally defined as any spending or tax provision that would benefit a specific entity or locality at our included in legislation at the request of a member. one house rules use the term earmark this is sometimes referred to as congressionally directed spending. in the early 2000s, earmarks begin to receive more scrutiny and to address growing concern in 2007 the house and senate adopted new chamber rules with the stated intention of bringing more transparency to the earmark process. those rules which are still in place require three things. first they require earmarks included in legislation and committee report language be disclosed. second they require committees compile and maintain in mark requests. and require any number requesting an earmark certify that no financial interest in the earmark. in addition to these rules of the committee adopted practices
that among other things fought to limit the purpose of earmarks. in 2011 house and senate began observing what is been referred to as an earmark moratorium or an earmark ban. this moratorium is not in long hours in house or senate rules to instead it is enforced by committee leadership and chamber leadership through their agenda setting powers. some memset proposed a re-examination of the earmark moratorium. that concludes my remarks. thanks again for inviting me and i look for to answering any questions you might have. >> thanks very much. appreciate your testimony and amaze you didn't look down. that was impressive. i now recognize myself for five minutes for questions. i want to start with mr. hoagland. the biannual budgeting seems like it's been a perennial issue, comes up over and over again and yet here we are with an annual process. why apparatus against implement
biannual budgeting failed and why is this so hard? >> i think first of all, with all due respect, i was a senate staffer for many, many years. in the senate where biannual budgeting first really started to put forward, united , uniteds senators of course have six years as opposed to your two years. it always was very early on the difficulty quite frankly was here in the house where the difficulty of you having to be in two years before running for reelection. appropriators, and i met budget year, i'm an appropriator, was the three that appropriators wanted to bite at the apple those two years, every year. quite frankly, in terms of the recommendation of the joint select committee, special select committee, it reflects that fact that you want to have an opportunity to appropriate every year. i would say in the senate, the
difficulty is that i think they feel if you're going to do this you do two years budgeting to your appropriation. i think it's a clash between the senate and the house. >> there are clearly a lot of problems with the budget appropriations process and we talked about a bunch of them today. does biannual budgeting get at alleviating any of those problems, particularly those that are sort of political in nature? >> no. >> is your sense now if we had a biannual process -- it seems at least in recent history when at least there's a caps agreement, it speeds the ability, and sets the for the appropriators to appropriate, seems like the process gets most bogged down as we've seen this you when there's not an agreement on what the overall, and with the top my number is. >> yes. i think getting 302 a early, the reason in my testimony, the reason i'm concerned is your
having comfortable yet to adopt a biannual budget and i respect the fact the select committee move the adoption date to the first of may from april the 15th. but even if you're able to get a concurrent, conference agreement, concurrent resolution on the top line between house and senate by may 15, he gives the appropriators for a short time to get the work done. quite frankly not much. i'd only adopting and reporting it as we've seen, , when you ge, take the 3:02 a.m. break them down into three or to be, that's when you start to slow down the process dramatically. >> that's helpful. final question i have want to dress to all of you and get your sense of this. i would say the concerns and going to raise our without regard to who is in the white house and which party is in the
majority or minority and course by think it's clear we seen a real erosion of congressional authority and power. under the constitution congress is given the power of the purse and those powers have eroded. we seen more aggressive rescissions regardless of administration, and billy to spend substantial amounts of money even our things to which congress has appropriated which is in the news quite a bit lately. and decisions being made by an elected folks within the executive branch rather than decisions being made elected legislators. what has congress give it up? i'd like to get your cisco what has cogs given up, is it a problem what congress has given up is that a problem for the american people and what would you do about it? >> happy to start. thinking about the convergence discussion, i think yes, it is a problem and congress has given up some of its institutional authority in all of this.
for many of the reason she just said in your question. the end of the day we do have congress not frankly taking ownership of some of its ownership -- oversight responsible and funding the government and dig deeper. i've seen that erosion time after time i used to be called in and talk with committee staff about what's going on in these programs and for student financial aid. those conversation so have nearly as often as they used to buy the appropriators or especially. there just isn't time because they are too busy fighting about what's going to be the next allocation can what that appropriation will be. that was pretty much common sense among my colleagues in the convergence better budget process, dialogue. >> is anybody else want to take a crack at that? >> mr. chairman, i would suggest the congressional budget control
act of 1984 grow out of another crisis at that time which was president nixon impounding money both essence of that act was the power that was being taken away from congress why his ability to inbound. i think the congressional budget control act brought power back to the legislative branch but as he rode over time. as a say in the last 12 years you have three-quarters time come you haven't done what the law says you should be doing which is adopting a budget. given up that process in the sense of not following through with what you, powers you have following through consideration you have significantly shifted the decision-making within the legislator branched to the executive branch and that i think is a real failure of our democratic process today. >> you don't want to opine? on overtime so i may come back with some more questions in the second round. but nobody recognize vice
chairman gray for question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your thoughts and testimony today. a couple of questions from me. so we have the cochairs of the subcommittee on budget reform before us. our understanding is that was a recommendation package if they couldn't get the most necessary to pass it out. is it safe to say that package of recommendations is a good foundation for this committee to work off of? is it any objections you've seen her items that should be omitted from the package? >> i i think it's a wonderful package to be working from. >> i share that sentiment. >> i have not heard criticism of that package. >> we haven't either, and only in this body can you something that people agree on that we can't pass. [laughing] it is amazing but it's great we have foundation work off of. i did really here any discussion of mandatory versus discretionary spending. can we talk about that just for a second?
is there a need for congress to actually vote on mandatory spending to gain that ownership and understanding of that responsibility? >> yes, congressman. i feel strongly that the problem with having established the caps over the last ten year caps, has only focus on the discretion portion of the budget. by not having a budget resolution, which broadly takes in not only mandatory but revenues, you have to shift the focus only to that which the appropriation committee has jurisdiction over. so that's what i think it's important to get back to adopting a budget resolution with its a biannual budget resolution that sets a framework and, therefore, can address the issues as it relates to mandatory spending as well as revenues to be honest with you, too. you're not doing that when you're always focusing on staying within the caps. >> good. >> i would just add again from the convergence project, we had
that discussion. one of the principles we espouse for budget reform was the budget should be comprehensive. i . i would agree i think on behalf of all of those disciplines that we envision this budget action plan as we call it, making sure we're addressing the revenues, addressing the discretionary spending. >> and i agree. i've seen the budget resolutions either party is present in the past generally are a visionary type document. not governing document. more of a mission statement or visionary statement, versus reality, what might occur or not occur. i would like to see it be more reality, that members are taking ownership of an understanding from a fiscal nature we are dealing with as a country. i hope we would consider that as well as we look forward, and maybe as a think about committees, wouldn't it be nice, nice to your i guess using the
testimony about the budget committee compilation of i would be comprise, recommendation on that to new members. but what if it was truly bipartisan committee, equally divided amongst both parties and the only way to pass up on thet is it had to be bipartisan versus others? i'm just opining on that. ms. lynch, , i love to give youn opportunity to participate. in a conversation you brought up a lot of people don't want to talk about, and that's congressional directed spendingr the dreaded earmark word. help us understand come hazarding any thought into what that reform might look like that would be responsible reform? we all know why the moratorium is in place and it was abused, and very negative perception by limited cases, potentially it was being abused. i don't think that abuse has been removed. it's just been shifted to another area. so how might this committee
consider that reform with protections in place that gain the trust of the american people? >> thanks for that question. some people in thinking about lifting the earmark moratorium have proposed different reforms that might be made to earmarks. some of us would be reinstituting practices or formalizing practices that the house observed in the mid to late 2000s. some of those members were required to post the earmark on a personal website and say why it was a good use of taxpayer money. they were sort of, their proposals for having an one-stop location like a database that is searchable and accessible to the public what they can see all the earmark requests. there have been proposals to have gao do a periodic audit of earmarks. that's on the transparency side. also limiting the purpose of earmarks in the recipient of earmarks, so no earmarks for private companies, no pass-through earmarks, no
earmarks for projects that are named after members of congress. sometimes sort of limiting the level total spending level for earmarks, so no more than 1% of discretionary spending or a limit on dollar about four in earmark. >> so previously before the moratorium, directed spending could go to a private entity, not just a governmental entity? >> that's right. >> i would imagine -- we are both appropriators and we never been in that department where it exists. i don't think mr. woodall has and they haven't, mr. cleaver might be the only person on the panel that's been in congress since prior to the moratorium. thank you. >> mr. polk in. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let continue on that because i was at the meeting went time when as a freshman and sat in with a bunch of folks, got talking about congressionally directed spending sort of earmarks. i raised the issue of how people
didn't like the idea of the earmark for a bridge to nowhere and then that was the staff person who wrote that at the time here that didn't go over so well in that room. other ideas for addressing this issue? it does seem since i've been your know, it's my fourth term, we have remarkably hard time doing what should be the most 101 of our job. if you actually had some skin in the game rather than a bureaucrat in washington, you're more likely to be supported. any of the changes people might recommend? >> when the convergence group discussed this, let me note we met 14 times. this came up in a first minicamp last meeting and several beatings in between. because many of the participants saw the appeal come sort of the crees sometimes to along legislation. ms. lynch did a great job of outlining the same things we heard in our discussion. while we didn't reach consensus
on this, that was the threshold for our report, what we found was that was a lot of interest that earmarks were to come back, they absolutely had to be transparent. limiting them to certain parts was a thought a lot of people shared. that way the would be less opportunity for people to be abusive of that. just a flavor of the conversation that when we came out. >> i don't know if i've recommendation by want to make an observation, back to the chairman's comment about what has congress give it up. it always struck me and i did work for budget and the chairman is also inappropriate. what always bothered me was when those explanatory notes came up to the appropriation committee from the executive branch, they are in marking. if they are in and you are excluded from doing that, i thought that was an unfair balance of responsibility. >> appreciate that.
but also ask something that was brought up. seems like as i explained back home with appropriate the money. we bought the item, we've written a check that were not sure if will drop it in the mailbox to pay it. which seems a little illogical. can you address that salient issue? >> i dealt with, my time at. i dealt with the number of these issues. gramm-leach-bliley grew out of one. i think that our recommendations, particularly recently in the senate where upon the adoption of a biennium budget you're going to have 302 a that will kick in at the same time kick out an automatic increase in the statutory debt limit consistent with what's in that i and budget so dealing with it once and it's consistent what you've adopted overall in terms of the biennium budget. >> that was the consensus view of the convergence group.
future analogy, should you write the check for making a commitment. credit card, check, whatever it is, were making a commitment and shed light on that and know you're know your borrowing or you are not. >> let me ask one that is outside the purview of the committee but just something i often bring up and it used to be on the committee some not trying to trash the budget committee. i don't know if i really understood the purpose of the budget committee and and i wast for two sessions, in the current errors. are there ways to stream in the process we don't have budget committee or are you all saying no, we need to have a budget committee? >> our group was very tempted to recommend eliminating the budget committees. for some of the reasons you articulating. but after we get deeper into our discussions we thought it was more important for it to be strengthened. and restructured in ways that creates that by then, create that leadership so if you have the chairs and ranking members
of all the committees that are authorizers or have some fiscal responsibility come you can do we talked about earlier, make that budget document comprehensive, have real input, with that ownership there and allow that to be. without a budget committee whose job is it? >> i was a staff director and the senate budget committee for many, many years. obviously i am biased, and it worked in the early years and it worked largely because of what has just been said. the makeup of that committee early on, in fact, was just the chairman of the appropriation committee, the regiment of the preparation, the chairman, ranking member, those major committees of jurisdiction. i would modify that in years in which major authorizations commit such as in agriculture bill you would have the chairman of that. you would make that committee really a fiscal committee that would give guidance and without buy-in back to the committees of jurisdiction. i can only speak to the senate.
i will be fair and stay away from commenting on the house budget committee, and the senate that for political purposes, that was changed over time which made it less effective long-term. i would go back to restructuring the committee back to having fiscal people involved in it. you still need to have a big blueprint. you need to have not just discretionary burkini down the appropriations, mandatory spending and you get the revenues of the total picture of your budget. you can't do it without the total picture. >> i would add for most of congress is history that one of house and senate budget committees and the purpose of grading does committees was other committees have jurisdiction over certain programs but there wasn't a commit that jurisdiction over look at the budget as whole and the budget committee were also created to be enforced of the budget resolution and budget rules. >> thank you very much. i would overtime. appreciate it. >> thank you. next up, mr. woodall.
thank you, mr. chairman. i think about the timelines. seems like forever to your budget deal in february of 2018, which gave us for seven months before the end of the fiscal year and with most successful congress in the last 17 years and only got five of 12 done. and yes when we were on the joint select committee we're trying to move those timelines around. tell me why, take it from convergence recommendation that we are going to do this right out of the gate. i've got all these freshmen have been elected making all sorts of promises. they are very first vote in congress is to do a two-year deal on issues they don't yet understand, automatically raise the debt limit of the just promised not to do, and on and on and on. why is it the first year of the two-year congress that we are all focused on passing budget
resolutions, whether they be one year or two years? if are going to do a two-year resolution why is that the second of the congress when folks have their feet wet and then can get us through what are sometimes sticky election years, politics even more than normal? >> thanks for that question. we did russell exacta with that question. a couple thoughts come to mind. one is we thought about binding the next congress, and that gave some people some hesitations. as we thought about it, all of our proposals, five consensus proposals were meant to consummate each other. this is with a proposal for the physical state of the nation is really important. our theory was if we have a better informed budget process and that physical state of the nation report is coming out during the presidential election cycles, not only our presidential candidates and you tend to do, members of congress who are running, candidates all
have this same information so the already be thinking about the budget. couple that with a restructured buddy budget committee way of leadership there is committees all in that committee all informed that they could at the start of a new congress really hit the ground running. when the fiscal nation report wasn't coming out, you have these long-term gao reviews look at portfolios. there's a constant flow of information at the right time of the decision-making. we thought that would help move these things along beginning of the new congress. >> i support a stronger budget committee. that soviet and 74 and as it turns out, what's the point i'm going to use? budgeting is governing and governing is challenging. we had right installations come around every september to say if he didn't get a ride in the first six months will bring in the hammer to get it right and, of course, we already behind future carcasses because explosive finish to finish my work by september 30 which binds
the future covers all the way to september 30 if they don't change it. mr. hoagland, you were not staff director of the budget committee during the eight years were no budgets were passed over on the senate side. i've often wondered what, what has come into place were institutional knowledge and i would argue passion resides, the budget process has failed even more regularly than here on the house side. as we think about strengthening the process come if i can't strengthen it with the folks with six year terms of what institutional memories, how in the world is that plan going to stick long-term? >> i don't know if i've very good answer. the senate has a fault, it's changed dramatically. i will say though the first time i was involved with not getting a budget resolution conference agreement was after a major
shift that in 1995 can make united states, the first major ones and with crisis back to and we came back together and we finally adopted a balanced budget agreement in 1997. with all due respect to my friend, former chairman of house budget committee, mr. kasich, he was running for president and yet no desired necessarily to put forth a budget resolution that year and that's why it was the first time were unable to get it. it all comes back to politics at that particular point. unfortunately. i don't know we can change your system here the way that would assure but it was working back in those days with leadership anything leadership both committees, preparation of budget and major ways, that's what you need. you don't buy-in from leadership. >> ranking the effort to try to achieve some of those goals, it seems odd we talk about strengthening the budget committee in the same way commencing breath without having
the budget committee meet as often and do work. but if it's serious work than it does have a lasting effect. as we think about reforms that caucuses look at historically, do you see that regularly we are going to strengthen and do less as the post you were going to try to do more? >> i would see some proposals i've seen thus so to speak to this contradiction of the ideas that maybe you want to the budget committee that just has may be altered membership. many propose have leadership research by on the committee said the budget committee is not doing the work, reporting and doesn't have support of the chamber. >> as as a nine-year member of e budget committee, i will remind my college we do have designees from the ways and means committee from the appropriations committee and from the rules committee. we just default from having chairman and ranking member status enthusiastic freshman designated from this committees
to serve. i yield back. >> thanks very much. mr. cleaver. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. ms. lynch mentioned some of the things we should think about, and i also think she said, and i was here so i remember, almost everything you said was the practice when earmarks was discontinued. i mean, you have to put on your website, you had have to sign n affidavit saying this is not going to your cousin bill. i couldn't go to a corporation, all those things we had in place. and so the missouri delegation had lunch each month. everyone of us, all eight of us rather, said we were going to say publicly that we support it marks or whatever you want to
call it. but here's where things bumping heads. the confluence between politics and constitution. what happens is, well, first of all, let me just -- senator stevens is trying to build a bridge to nowhere. it was not true. he was trying to build a bridge to a small island that only had i think about 55 people people on it, something like that. most people think there was no destination for the bridge of just building a bridge. not true. the argument could have been, are we spending too much money for that size population? it's a legitimate argument. and lest your grandma lived on the island and couldn't get on a ferry in the winter and make it to the mainland to go to the hospital, which was the issue. so the public doesn't know everything. go to any town and say bridge to
nowhere and they think it was a bridge to nowhere, i can't pronounce the name of the island. the press started and we jump right in and started doing it for political reasons. the thing is i don't know if, i mean, if we're going to be able to, you know, i think right now constitution is experiencing a stress test. and it didn't start with the current president. it started long before. we haven't declared war sense 1945, and we fed 118,000 americans killed in wars since then. and congress just sits on its hands and we let it take place. and then what happens is the partisanship gets in the way. when president obama stood up at
his third or fourth state of the union and said i will sign no bills that have earmarks in them, and i publicly criticized him and said, you don't have that power. some democrats that you can do that. this is the president. we know he's wrong but we can't criticize. what has happened is, the party that's in power in the white house, they will go a long with the extraction of the constitutionally awarded power of the house who will give it away because nobody wants to criticize the president if he or she is one of them. that's how it has eroded. president obama said i'm not going to sign a new bills. we should have stood up, everybody, and said enough. this is wrong. you can't do it. we didn't do it, and so now we
assume we're not supposed to do it. and so you've got politics, you've got the press and you've got this political stuff that says we don't criticize someone in her own party. so can we actually deal with this issue? in terms of some kind of legislation? i don't think so. i think it's an issue about the heart and the mind, that we have to deal with on whether or not it's right and wrong. and right now we are in this position because every president for probably the last 55 years has taken just a little, and a little and little and a little, and were going to rue the day when we wake up one morning and find that we only have two branches of the government. we are barely three right now. i didn't intend to go off, but
you know, i'm curious about this stuff because we are giving it away and we're watching it. we are watching it in real time, and we have a bridge in kansas city. i was mayor. i was pushing named this kit bond. i was talked to last friday. senator bond never asked anybody to do that. and so because we need it desperately, i thought, and a of the tongue. and not to be kit bond. we could name george brett or quarterback, len dawson. anyway, thank you. >> i didn't invite any of you to respond, if you would care to. >> you have to hit the button
again. >> one quick observation and that is there is legislation in the senate now what you do not know if it's in the house it's called article one legislation that deals with the declaration of an emergency that the president used recently for the purpose of shifting that money. and give power back. that is, a fact that was introduced in the senate by a fall people send it accrues from texas in in a bipartisan manne. i would suggest you start looking at that kind of legislation that is bipartisan to take back some of our that you should not be giving up at all. >> thank you. mr. timmins. thank you, mr. chairman and thank you all for taking the time to come and testify before this committee. it's been a reporting process and an honor to be a of it. one thing i find asked ms. lynch come was debt to gdp ratio include in any of the joint committees recommendations? >> that was something the committee debated and considered the idea you would have some kind fiscal targets, that was
hard of a great deal of the conversation. ultimately decision was made to make it more about budget process reform the budget reform. that being said, the optional path for bipartisan budget resolution with special procedures in the senate, the did include a debt to gdp, sort of a glide path. >> thank you. mr. hoagland, earlier i think you are asked is it to your budget would be more politically measurable than a one your budget. what was your answer to that? >> i think it's difficult comfortable, one your budget is networking obviously. so i think it's worth an effort to try to do biennial budgeting. where i think i'm having some differences of opinion with the joint select committees recommendation is, i i feel lie you ought to budget for two
years and appropriate for two years, not appropriate every year after the biennium. that's my only critique of the joint select committees recommendation. now, argument always comes back, but things are changing. well, yes, they have changed that at least set two years budget and appropriate for two years, and if you need supplementals, have supplementals in the second session. if you're going to go to your biennial budgeting you should be you biennial appropriations also. >> i would agree with you but i also have a pragmatist of the question becomes, is our current system better or worse than to r budget, one your appropriations? would you prefer to continue to do it the way we are or to do it to your budget and one your appropriations instead of nothing? is it better than nothing?
>> no. i think, i don't like the current system. i don't think it's performed. the way it should operate. obviously, one your budget and what your appropriations is networking. i would go to a two-year process. i really what. >> okay. i believe last year there were 237 people that cosponsored a bill and house to get the past, but it was never considered, largely because of the challenge with the appropriations committee wanting to do appropriations every year. i guess i was just kind of, one of the things with chocolate and committee is take whatever you can and not have a fight over whatever is left. if we can all agree and if there's no opposition to a two-year budget, when you appropriations schedule, i guess i'm just kind of saying let's start somewhere and come back or something later. >> i now understand your question, yes. this is a start. it is a a start, a two-year but
and if you have to annual appropriations, go ahead. but i would hope eventually you would move to go to your budget and two-year appropriations. but it's worth the start. >> thank you. ms. lynch, can you discuss the last time major changes were made to the budget process? >> i would say every congress, there are rules adopted into the house rules package that at some effect on the budget process. i would say the last significant one would be the budget control act of 2011 that created the joint committee on deficit reduction and the discretionary spending caps. >> thank you. debt to gdp ratio, is this something you all would be in favor of incorporating into the conversation and making it a part of the process, or is that not something you think is an important step in the right direction? >> so our group wrestled with
that metric. and again, for us it was more about process and outcome. that is information that should be brought into the process. but to mandate it being a part of the process to achieve a specific outcome is what we couldn't achieve consensus because people just have differing views about different economic conditions. it needs the part of the discussion but not necessarily a part of the speedy you would be in favor of mandating it be part of the discussion at least, to be part of the report as delivered to the dish commits? >> i'm not sure our group would say mandated. i think will happen naturally so better information in the process is critical so you want to make the best informed decisions you can. if that becomes an impediment because you put a mandate because it has be part of process, that can be a distraction. it might break the norm in terms of what, are or set a new normu don't want where there's true disagreement about how to interpret that metric and what you think it's high, low, or how
it should be interpreted -- interpreted to make the policy. >> talk today jet db ratio is about%, i believe -- >> seventy-eight. >> historically, it is average about 40%. we've gone through a number of exercises terms of bringing that down. i can tell you given the demographics the mandatory is what you always locked in spending going forward, i tell you it is very difficult, even to hold at 70% with what the decisions you have to make so it's back to the issue of recognizing if you said that percentage to gdp you better be prepared for some very difficult decisions up here both on the spinning site and on the revenue side. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you. mr. newhouse. >> mr. chairman, thank you for being here and contributing to this important discussion. some of us, many of us come from
state government, and i don't know if every state does that no states use annual budgeting -- 20? so not postdate. a lot of states do but seems like federal government, many times larger, more complex expecting to get the work done in a matter of months versus a couple of years is unrealistic, in my view. so i appreciate your contributing to this important discussion on how can we make this process better. i'm in my third term. i think everybody in congress understands, for the most part, the significance of the debt that we face and how unsustainable this is. but one of the biggest things that i've heard ever since i got here was we can do a whole lot about it with only 30% of the
budget. there's the mandatory versus discretionary spending the question, is one that's just been a really difficult obstacle in order for us to get our fiscal house in order. i guess i would like all of you, if you have some thoughts about how we could crack that net, how we could move forward in discussions we have better control over our spending and revenue. i know politically that is a minefield. that's a difficult thing that it seems to me that if were ever going to get our arms around this we are going to have to address it. and so in the short amount of time we have, i know mr. hoagland, in your testimony that i was unable to listen to first-hand, but reading, it was an effort of the domenici-rivlin
report that mentioned this so maybe just start with you. >> thank you, congressman. yes domenici-rivlin had a major recommendations. first of all, was i annual budgeting appropriate, but also the total budget, as you say,, not just focus on the one-third. we did talk about what congressman timmons was talking about, setting some goal come having congress agree to a goal. not necessarily a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget but a goal of reducing that debt to gdp to a fixed number. if you were to do that and make that law and consequences of not hitting those numbers, something like it did work out the way we thought it would come that there are serious consequences of not meeting those goals, i think that's when we making the process stronger is to do exactly what mr. timmons was
suggesting, is to set a goal come maybe five years, ten years, 15 years out where we we going to hit that target your we will force you to look not just that discretionary spending. it will force you to look at the total budget. >> i would add again from the convergence. perspective, that leans towards an outcome so we can get deep into that but you must what can you do. that's the whole point. reform the process so the process works so you can have that discussion. year after year after year because if and not having the discussion year after year in a way that leads to a policy outcome, you are punting, punting every time. that was our perspective. again what type of groups that are very right-leaning to two y left-leaning, some in the middle. we all could come around. if you can fix the process you can start taking on big major issues such as that regardless of your perspective on how much debt we should have.
>> ms. lynch? >> it's a great point. most people think of the budget process has been an annual process when in reality about 70% is fixed. it could be helpful to look at the '80s and '90s. in the '80s and '90s the idea is you would use budget resolution to look at budgeteers penny but look at mandatory spending and revenues. you would look at that as a whole and look at what would be an appropriate amount for a deficit. and then congress would use budget resolution and then trigger the budget reconciliation process and they would use the budget reconciliation process to make changes to mandatory spending and revenue in a way that would be projected reduce the deficit. those tools are still available to congress, and i just think the '80s and '90s are good example because you had the chambers controlled by different parts. through the branches of government controlled by different parties and their still utilizing those tools. >> and i just would add come
exactly no surprise coming from the bipartisan policy center, that this means sides giving up something. i'll would lose my credentials as republican staffer but i would say revenues have to be on the table. i don't think you can do this all just on the spinning site, on the mandatory side or the discretionary side to get to anywhere close to reducing that debt to gdp figure. >> i get i appreciate you putting on this very important topic. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i want to pull on a couple of other threads. it is difficult to explain the inexplicable to my constituents when the budget and appropriations process goes off the rails. going to a coast guard base where they were accepting donations of food because during the last shutdown was sick. it's striking to me that when the process goes off the rails,
the pain is held by our constituents, which attach to each of us on the screen has on arms now is fix this, so that congress works better for the american people. i find myself wondering how to get out of this box, and some of it is through process reforms. i want to pull all of it, mr. hoagland, you mention and mr. owens you said there was some consideration of looking at incentives and disincentives. we grappled with that on the last select committee because to some degree congress generally finds its way out of every mousetrap. if you set a rule it can wait it. things like the budget no pay, no budget no recess i think were rejected even though i think it was some bipartisan support for those ideas. you mentioned the incentive half which was an expedited path in the senate.
what do we not -- what do we not thinking of? are there other threads we should be pulling on either on the incentive/disincentive? extract because it's just that congress doing it's a damn job, it is painful even have to have a conversation like is there a forcing function to get congress to do its job? >> again, thank you, mr. chairman. one of the proposals that i warmed up to over the years is, if you can't get your work done by the beginning for those constituents, for your coast guard constituents out there, and automatic cr, a plum failure to reach that point is automatically a continuation. right into the law. it's automatic. you don't have to pass another cr. it's automatic. incented, criticism, those who want to hold and spending, we should have an automatic cr. well, i would then make it such
that over a a certain period of time that automatic cr starts to reduce, starts put pressure back on you to get your work done. but keep government-funded at some level to avoid the issues that you have with the government shutdown. >> i would add as as a converge group rest with this, this was a very significant part of our discussion. multiple meetings come of this 14th 14 i would say the least half of those we would talk about incentives or carrots and sticks in one fashion or form. the conversation about earmarks was part of that. is that a potential incentive if you were to bring those back? we didn't think so. but ultimately i think we came out is so many things you could do, no budget, no pay. we talked about no budget, no fund-raising. we kept coming back to one point and that is the ultimate incentive that all of you have our elections.
so the pain is going to be there. you have to face the music if you're going to get the budget done, you will face the praise. and the time of the gentleman has expired again, so again the way we thought about it is better information, really putting this on the consciousness of the american people, putting -- if you can all put up with your own rules because you understand each other better than we could come this is what makes us get it done for this is what will punish us in a way will create so much pain among ourselves that we would do it, we thought that really is left best to your hands. .. the australian prime minister, scott morrison.