Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.

As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.

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Chuck and Stan in the Focus Washington studio

Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.                                                                       

Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”

Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.

After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.

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