The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123) created the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations and tasked it with identifying and recommending reforms to Congress’ annual budget and appropriation process. The committee is made up of 16 members, eight members each from the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. House and Senate leadership appointed members to the select committee, which is co-chaired by Representatives Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.).
The committee has held two public hearings since it was created, addressing a variety of issues within the current budget and appropriation process. The first public hearing, titled “Opportunities to Significantly Improve the Federal Budget Process,” was held on April 17. The hearing focused on two main issues: how Congress should handle the debt ceiling and changing the appropriations cycle timeline. Some members suggested reinstating the “Gephardt rule,” under which the debt limit raises automatically when Congress adopts a budget resolution, which would allow the House to pass debit limit legislation without requiring a separate vote on the debt ceiling. Regarding the appropriations timeline, members suggested lengthening the budgeting cycle to every two years to allow Congress to focus on other issues.
On May 9, the Joint Select Committee held its second public hearing, titled “Bipartisanship in Budgeting,” which focused on continuing resolutions – short term extensions of existing funding levels – and passing bipartisan appropriations bills on time. During this hearing, the committee discussed the inefficiencies preventing Congress from routinely completing and enacting appropriations on time, and members offered possible solutions with a specific focus on increasing bipartisanship.
The select committee will hold additional hearings throughout the year and must submit recommendations and legislative text before November 30. Counties rely on a consistent federal budgeting process to ensure their own budgets are accurate and completed in a timely manner. NACo will continue working to assist federal lawmakers with the appropriations process and ensure county priorities are recognized and supported in future spending bills.