Although elected officials must make politically difficult choices to put the government’s finances on a sustainable path, some reforms in the congressional budget process could help.
And as several budget experts made clear in a recent panel discussion on Capitol Hill, some of the proposed reforms hold bipartisan appeal.
The Concord Coalition and Rep. Reid Ribble hosted the program. Much of it focused on the benefits of shifting to a two-year budget cycle and making the federal debt limit more meaningful and effective.
Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director, said Congress is actually experimenting with a two-year budget now with the Ryan-Murray agreement, which set discretionary spending caps for two fiscal years. He also advocates setting 20-year targets for debt-to-GDP ratios.
Gordon Gray of the American Action Forum said politicians sometimes blame the budget process to absolve themselves of responsibility for gridlock. But he agreed some process reforms would help.
Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center said any new budget enforcement mechanism must be more rational than the current debt ceiling. Jim Kessler of Third Way said the government should never come as close to defaulting as it did last year.
Ed Lorenzen of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the debt limit should be raised at the same time tax and spending decisions are made.
The panelists also agreed that Congress must ultimately address mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.