The Action is in the Budget Committee
The action is in the House Budget Committee this week. That’s the committee that looks after Congress’ constitutional power to spend, collect revenue, and borrow. (The House committee must work with its Senate counterpart, of course).
The budget committees set spending amounts each year before the appropriations committees go to work on the actual spending—though Congress has been flouting these processes the last few years.
The House Budget Committee has an aggressive schedule this week. It’s considering bills that will change the budget process in ways the committee’s leadership thinks will improve things. Let’s take a look at those bills.
- H.R. 3582 is called the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2011. It would require the Congressional Budget Office to do “macroeconomic” analyses of major bills. That is, analyses that look at the potential economic impact of bills. What they’re trying to get at is the idea that a tax cut might improve economic activity and increase government revenue, or at least not lower revenue all that much. The analyses CBO does now don’t examine these questions.
- H.R. 3578 is the Baseline Reform Act of 2011. It would end the policy of assuming increases in anticipated spending based on inflation. Instead, increases would be measured against the previous fiscal year’s spending.
- H.R. 3581 is the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2011. As the name suggests, it seeks to improve transparency with regard to accounting in some of the government’s more complex areas, including federal credit programs, insurance programs, government-sponsored enterprises, and the U.S. Postal Service. It would also require agencies to post their annual budget justifications online. Those are the documents in which they ask for the next year’s funding—something that would be nice to see.
- H.R. 3575, the Legally Binding Budget Act of 2011, would cause the congressional budget resolution to have the force of law. That means that Congress could not spend more than what the budget blueprint set by the House and Senate budget committees for the year allows (subject to lots of caveats and complexities).
It’ll be interesting to see if the Congress changes the way the numbers get crunched—and if changing the numbers changes any results.
It looks like you can watch the committee’s consideration of these bills live starting at 10:00 am Eastern Tuesday and Wednesday.