Ernst, Republican colleagues aim to hold Congress accountable for meeting budget deadlines

Federal budget process reforms proposed on Nov. 27 by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and her colleagues would institute real-world consequences on Congress if it failed to meet deadlines to fund the United States government.

“Congress can do better,” Sen. Ernst said. “We owe it to the American people to complete our work on time. If we fail to meet our deadlines, we should stay at work until we get the job done.”

Sen. Ernst was joined by U.S. Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and James Lankford (R-OK) in proposing to set specific milestones for passing federal budget and appropriations bills that would keep Congress on track to meeting them, according to a statement released this week by Sen. Ernst’s office.

The proposals will be considered in the bicameral, bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, according to the statement. Sens. Ernst, Perdue, and Lankford are members of the committee, which is composed of 16 members of Congress: four Senate Republicans and four Senate Democrats, along with four House Republicans and four House Democrats.

“The most essential role Congress has is to raise revenue and fund the federal government,” said Sen. Ernst. “Yet, since 1974, Congress has passed all of its appropriations bills just four times. And, in the past 20 years, we have only passed a budget resolution 11 times.”

Sen. Perdue, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, noted that “in the real world, you are held accountable to make tough decisions and complete the job.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “Washington is locked in a cycle of continuing resolutions and last-minute spending deals. This is totally irresponsible.”

The Joint Select Committee must create a politically neutral platform with specific milestones to complete funding and impose consequences if Congress doesn’t meet its deadlines, said Sen. Perdue.

“We won’t fix this broken funding process or the national debt crisis if Congress refuses to hold itself accountable for failure,” he said.

And Congress should face consequences, agreed Sen. Lankford, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who pointed to the Senate’s decision in August against taking the annual August state work period as an example. The decision consequently left budget work unfinished, he said and contributed this year to just five of the 12 individual appropriations bills being signed into law by their Sept. 30 deadlines.

Essentially, that leaves “seven still remaining for Congress to address,” Sen. Lankford said. “Congress has not been able to pass all 12 appropriations bills since 1995.”

The Joint Select Committee, created on Feb. 9 by Congress, has until the end of the calendar year to agree on changes to the budget and appropriations process and then present them to Congress for a full vote, according to Sen. Ernst’s statement.