CHN: Budget Process Reform Bill Concerns Advocates

The Senate Budget Committee on November 6 passed legislation that contains changes to the budget process considered highly problematic by advocates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the legislation, introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would trigger a new, automatic deficit-reduction process in the second year of a budget if the debt projection calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is higher than that projected in the budget resolution for the final year covered by the budget resolution. This special expedited “reconciliation” process would only pertain to deficit reduction and could force harmful spending cuts that could be quickly rammed through the Senate. Using this special expedited reconciliation process instructs committees to suggest cuts and moves them quickly to the Senate floor, and allows the Senate to pass such cuts with only a simple majority (51 votes) instead of with the usual 60 votes required.

Experts at CBPP believe this could lead to “deep cuts in mandatory programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance subsidies, SNAP, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – and at a time when the economy is weak, thus making the economy still weaker.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Ranking Member of the Committee, said in a statement, “Though this bill has some positive aspects, at its core is the creation of a new, expansive ‘budget reconciliation’ process that could be used by Republicans to unilaterally cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition assistance—all supposedly to reduce the deficit. This new proposed process comes less than two years after Republicans on this Committee showed no hesitation in adding $2 trillion to deficit in order to pass the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest families and the most profitable corporations in America, using the budget reconciliation process. At a time when Senate Republicans came within one vote of kicking 32 million Americans off their health care, the last thing we need is a new Senate procedure that could help speed through a repeat of that effort.”

Democratic Sens. Wyden (OR), Murray (WA), and Stabenow (MI) introduced an amendment that would strip the harmful expedited reconciliation provisions from the budget reform process legislation. Seven senators voted in favor of the amendment, while 14 voted against it.

The legislation (S. 2765) also has some elements that advocates like, including tactics to end the partisan brinksmanship surrounding the debt limit and reduce the risk of a federal default. It would also replace the current annual budget resolution with a two-year budget resolution while retaining the process for annual appropriations bills to fund the government. However, advocates believe the negative aspects of the bill far outweigh the positive.

Budget and Appropriations