WASHINGTON — Heading into congressional budget season, the chairman of the House Budget Committee seems more interested in the complex budget process than in specific government spending priorities.
“The process creates the product,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday. “We budget in this country under an act that was written 41 years ago. The world has changed, but not much has changed about the budget process.”
He wants to begin pushing for a rewrite of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. The budget is a blueprint for how Congress can appropriate money for government programs in the coming fiscal year. Both Congress and the Obama administration are expected to unveil their budgets for the 2017 fiscal year by the end of February.
Trillions of dollars will be at stake.
Price advocated making the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office more transparent and forcing the Budget Committee to analyze mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Social Security on a more frequent basis.
“This is an example of focusing on process rather than policy to affect the budget,” said Harry Stein, the director of Fiscal Policy at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. “Process can’t force an agreement that doesn’t exist.”
Stein compared Price’s proposals to the 2011 sequester which similarly attempted to use a process mechanism—cutting government spending across the board, including military—to force an agreement on discretionary spending.
Price, in his sixth term, said that the process changes he has in mind can be policy neutral. But some experts questioned his motives, citing changes Price helped push through in the FY2016 budget that make Congressional Budget Office spending models more biased towards tax cuts.
“Over the course of the last 40 years, members of Congress who have found themselves frustrated with the state of the budget have turned their attention to the budget process. When in reality, if there’s a problem, the problem is the problem not the process,” Kogan said.
Last winter, Price played a key role in passing the bipartisan budget agreement through Congress.