Isakson Offers Alternative To ‘Kick The Can’ Budgeting

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

“Kick the can” is perhaps the most overused euphemism in Washington these days.  It seems at each point a critical deadline on a fiscal issue draws near, some sort of patchwork solution that merely extends the deadline is crafted.  We all then write stories about how Congress is just playing “kick the can.”

While we all generally know what that means, I doubt many of us know the rules of the game or more importantly how the game ends.  It seems as best I can recall the game ends when the participant gets tired of playing.

Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson is tired of playing. On Thursday he along with co-sponsor Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire introduced the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act. The legislation is crafted as an amendment to the Continuing Resolution and will require the annual appropriations process to move to a two-year budget cycle.  Isakson says via press release that this “would force Congress to become better stewards of the taxpayers’ money by placing Congress on a two-year budget cycle with one year for appropriating federal dollars and the other year devoted to oversight of federal programs.”

The idea sounds simple, and is one that Isakson has backed before.  Yet there is growing frustration from all parts of Washington, and more importantly from the electorate, that Congress and the President no longer follow the budgetary process.  Instead, we move from short term patch to shorter term compromise.  Big picture solutions are lost to the prioritization of the extension of the status quo.  Each crisis begets another fight. Each one sacrificing time and energy for little more than the privilege of having the same battle again weeks or months later.

The annual budgetary process, required by law, is largely ignored.  While the House has been passing budgets, the Senate hasn’t passed one since the original iPad was released.  The President, required by law to submit a budget to Congress by February 4th, has yet to get around to it.  When pressed by Congressman Tom Price as to when Congress could expect it, the President told him “probably within a couple of week” as reported by Daniel Malloy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Most in Washington have themselves grown weary of the never ending short term battles.  The House successfully pushed an attachment to the last increase in the debt ceiling which would withhold the pay of Congress should a budget not get passed within each chamber this year.  Isakson’s solution to make this a process one of two year cycles is a larger step towards focusing on longer term appropriations within a specified cycle and then allowing Congress to focus on other matters every other year.

Given that the Senate is the more difficult body to move any legislation through to passage, one wonders if this attachment would stand a chance.  The lead sponsors are bi-partisan, so that is a sign of hope.  A better sign came from a chance conversation with Senator Isakson himself as we waited to board a flight back home to Atlanta Thursday evening.

I mentioned that I had almost finished a column about this legislation, and offered that I hoped it might have a chance to pass so that the process could be reset into a more certain timeframe with a focus on big picture items.  He leaned in with a bit of a grin and asked “You know Harry Reid offered his support for it today, don’t you?”

Actually, I didn’t.   And that is significant, as Reid hasn’t seemed to make pushing a budget through the Senate a priority in the past.  With Reid first signing on to the House’s “no budget, no pay” provision, and now supporting two-year budget cycles, it is perhaps a sign that the era of never ending continuing resolutions may be coming to an end.

Perhaps, just perhaps, everyone is really tired of playing kick the can.  And as best I can tell, quitting that game is how you win it.  Hopefully Isakson has found the way to win here.

14 comments

    • saltycracker says:

      BS – In the corporate world this is how a cowardly top management used to screw everyone equally. It encouraged those that started with an insane level of spending to have a significant advantage over the divisions that were already running an efficient business.

      New business ideas were not put into place, services were reduced to protect employee empires, bookkeeping games expanded, bad assets were not addressed……

      1. Limit spending to a percentage of GDP.
      2. Expect top managment/elected to wisely budget from that point.

      • John Konop says:

        Salty,

        The real problem falls into two areas entitlements and military. We have a huge veterans liability bill via the wars that has NOT been reserved for on top of entitlements…….the final blow is healthcare is rising faster than GDP. Unless we cut back on military, fix healthcare cost and stop being the policemen of the world, the math does not add up.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          Mr. Konop…I agree, though it might not be wise to cut back too much on national defense with two terrorist regimes in Iran and a very-unstable and very-volatile North Korea playing deadly international games with nuclear weapons.

        • saltycracker says:

          John,

          Not disagreeing but – My point never even got to the level of who gets what money and how do we manage it. I’m saying our elected can argue until the cows come home over disbursement but meanwhile, limit how much they fight over. The debt leveraged spending must stop.

          We’ve posted many times on here that military deployment all over the world with permanent bases is something out of the past.
          Social Security is an insurance program with missing employee/employer monies plus treasury interest and being further looted by the cottage industry around disability.
          Health care costs are getting ready to skyrocket via Obamacare. And we Republicans are poking holes in the boat every day – so we can sink with it. I’m sure you’ve seen the articles on the pre-existing conditions Fed plan to get to 2014 that has stopped taking applicants as the $5 billion dollar pool has evaporated.

          The current program of unenforcable penalities and exemptions is financially doomed.
          The right wing should get behind individual mandates, pools for the needy (if we could define that) and allow health care providers the right of refusal of service for the uninsured, except to stabilize & send to a charity hospital. (we don’t want them dying in the streets).

          And let’s support orphanages and get over this, the teenage crack mom needs her kid.

          The health care industry and their lobbyists are sorting this out faster than any politician will – they’re smarter – so get braced.

  1. joe says:

    I would rather have them pass a two year budget, then go into recess for a year. At least that would limit the damage they could do. Okay, keep the Senate in session so they can perform their advise and consent role, but recess the House so that no new laws can be passed.

  2. John Konop says:

    The real issue is entitlements and military…….the biggest is healthcare part…….unless we talk about Medicare part d reform, healtcare cost and military…….you are just spitting in the wind.

    1) let Medicare part d use the negotiated prices from VA ie 60 percent savings on our biggest problem. And if you add goverment workers more savings…..

    2) Decrimialize drugs……we would save tons of money on housing, court cost……..

    3) if Neocons get us into anymore conflicts,tax people the cost, so we all get risk verse reward……and use a draft, with very limited exceptions……

    4) End payroll taxes/ medicare tax and replace it with a VAT, increases people paying in via more jobs and a wider base of people paying…….We must be honest with people that they only paid less than 1 dollar per 3 dollars of services via Medicare…

    5) invest into infastructure to help create more US jobs……..

    6) create tax incentives for seniors who work and do not take SS……..while indexing for seniors, who are healthy enough to work……

    7)Raise the minimon wage to above poverty line…….decreases welfare and increaes consumption…….ie jobs……btw this was proposed by the CEO of CostCo

    • Three Jack says:

      1> Better solution – repeal Medicare Part D, 100% savings
      2> Agreed, plus it would be a revenue generator through taxation (that along with inherent govt regulations only downside to decriminalization)
      3> Terrorists got us into the ‘conflicts’ as you put it, not ‘Neocons’.
      4> Better solution – repeal all of Medicare/SS to be replaced by private alternatives. Retirement programs that pay out more than they take in go bankrupt, that’s being honest.
      5> Invest what? We are operating with a massive annual deficit. Are you saying borrow more to create low end, make work jobs?
      6> Again easy solution, end SS, replace with private system where people can actually get a return on their investment and have access to the full amount they invest so that it can be passed along to their family members.
      7> Instead of raising the BS minimum wage, stop encouraging people to live beyond their means with so many government handouts offered. If you are seeking work at the minimum wage and have children, you have made multiple bad decisions. Time to pay for these decisions because the rest of us can no longer afford to cover your lapses in judgement.

      • John Konop says:

        1) Seniors have a very low savings rate, without the savings on drugs it would be a disaster……reality verse ideology

        3) Terorist did not get us into Iraq…… Reality verse ideology

        4) you do fade into annuity type product, cold turkey would not be realistic…. Reality verse ideology

        5) Our country growth from the history has been based on infastructure investment ie railroad, Internet, airport system, electronic grid…. reality verse ideology

        6) see 4

        7) As Henry Ford said he wanted his workers to make enough to buy his products…..reality verse ideology

        • Three Jack says:

          Reality – we’re broke due to over redistribution from producers to freeloaders.

          vs.

          Ideology – Time to stop going broke.

          The reality is we must rely upon conservative, tough love ideology if we are going to change our reality.

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