|May 10, 2000
The Administration supports budget process reform as part of a fiscally responsible budget framework. The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2001 proposes such a framework that includes tools for ensuring continued fiscal discipline. It includes proposals to: strengthen the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare; eliminate the publicly-held debt by 2013; provide tax relief; and maintain budget discipline through extension of the discretionary spending limits and the paygo rules and through establishment of a mechanism to ensure that Social Security surpluses are not used for other purposes. If Congress desires to consider broad budget process reform, these proposals would help to preserve fiscal discipline in an era of surplus.
Base Text of H.R. 853
The Administration has serious concerns about a number of provisions in H.R. 853.
We also note that, by having a joint budget resolution revert to a concurrent resolution after a veto, the fallback provisions would limit the resolution's ability to actually expedite the budget process during years when the President and Congress have serious differences. Those are the very years in which early agreement might be helpful in facilitating timely completion of the budget and appropriations process.
Biennial Budgeting Amendment
The Administration understands that the Rules Committee intends to make in order a biennial budgeting amendment to H.R. 853. The Administration supports biennial budgeting and would support effective biennial budgeting legislation. The Administration has testified on several occasions in support of biennial budgeting and has included language supporting the concept in the President's Budget. The Administration believes it offers a potentially valuable management tool. By concentrating budget decisions in the first year of each two-year period, biennial budgeting would free up time in the second year that could be redirected to management, long-range planning, and oversight.
However, the Administration is concerned that the proposed amendment may require further refinement. The sponsors of the amendment deserve credit for seeking to address the transition issue and delaying the effective date to make biennial budgeting more feasible to implement in a new Administration. The Administration looks forward to carefully examining this and other possible transition approaches. Several other issues also deserve close attention. The amendment calls for the President to provide budget updates in February of the "off" year, in addition to the existing summer mid-session reviews. However, it provides no process for congressional consideration of any proposed changes. Such a process could lay a foundation for orderly review of additional supplemental requests and prevent the supplemental appropriations from becoming a drawn out and expansive process. Moreover, there would be a need for greater Executive Branch flexibility in managing resources in response to changing circumstances over the longer time horizon. These issues all relate to the need for the branches to work closely together in order to effectively implement biennial budgeting. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress as the legislative process continues in order to craft effective and workable legislation.
Other Possible Amendments
Biennial budgeting would be a significant change in how Congress and the Administration produce budgets and appropriations bills. It should be considered carefully on its own merits and not be used as a vehicle to carry other, more controversial or partisan budget process changes. The Rules Committee may be asked to make floor amendments in order to add several such provisions to the bill. Proposals to: establish a lockbox for funds cut from appropriations bills; weaken the paygo rules by providing an exception during periods of on-budget surplus; or establish an automatic continuing resolution to cover lapses in appropriations, could all do more to weaken than to strengthen fiscal discipline. If these provisions are restored to H.R. 853, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the legislation.
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