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Case and Womack Reintroduce Sustainable Budget Act

Feb 12, 2021 | Budget Process

This week, Representatives Ed Case (D-HI) and Steve Womack (R-AR) reintroduced the Sustainable Budget Act. The bill would create a fiscal commission aimed at achieving primary budget balance within a decade. The commission would also propose recommendations designed to improve our long-term fiscal outlook. Representatives Tim Burchett (R-TN) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) joined the bill as original cosponsors. 

The Sustainable Budget Act would task a new National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform – the same name as the 2010 effort led by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget board members Al Simpson and Erskine Bowles – with making recommendations on how to fix the federal government's finances over ten years to achieve balance excluding interest and over the long term to achieve sustainability. The 18-member commission would consist of six presidential appointees (of which only four could be from the same party), three each from the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, and two bipartisan co-chairs appointed by the President. They would have one year to reach a consensus on their recommendations, defined by 12 of the 18 members approving their report with at least four members of each political party.

If they met that threshold, the commission's recommendations would receive fast-track consideration in both chambers of Congress, with the President required to submit a joint resolution containing the recommendations within 60 days of the commission's report. The President would need to consult with the relevant committees' leadership on the submission so that leaders could propose alternatives to the commission report, and the President would then decide what ultimately was transmitted to Congress. The bill would guarantee consideration of the resolution by both chambers with no amendments, though the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end debate on the resolution would be preserved.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget president Maya MacGuineas lauded the bill's introduction:

"Lawmakers are rightly focused on battling the pandemic and economic crisis. But once the pandemic recedes, we will need to address our escalating long-term national debt. Representatives Case and Womack deserve credit for working together in a bipartisan way to put forward The Sustainable Budget Act. The bill would create a bipartisan commission that would set the stage for constructive discussions to put us on a more responsible fiscal path. We applaud them for introducing a practical bill to help promote bipartisan solutions."

Case and Womack deserve praise for their leadership on this bill. Our unsustainable fiscal situation is only projected to deteriorate further over the coming years. Lawmakers will need to address it as we recover from the pandemic and economic downturn and providing a process for lawmakers to address it is a start to fixing the problem. Read more about other budget process reform ideas and proposals in our Better Budget Process Initiative.

Note: This blog is a slight adaptation of our previous blog: "Case and Womack Introduce Sustainable Budget Act."