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Case and Womack Introduce Sustainable Budget Act

Nov 25, 2019 | Budgets & Projections

Building on bipartisan momentum for addressing our unsustainable fiscal situation, Representative Ed Case (D-HI) and House Budget Committee Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) introduced the Sustainable Budget Act last week. The bill would create a fiscal commission with the goal of achieving primary budget balance within a decade. The bill's introduction comes on the heels of the bipartisan TRUST Act introduced in both chambers last month, which Case also cosponsored.

The Sustainable Budget Act, H.R. 5211, 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 the medium term (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 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:

Our national debt is on an unsustainable path, and the budget process is broken. The Sustainable Budget Act, introduced by Representatives Case and Womack, would establish a bipartisan commission that could serve as a catalyst and provide the venue for policymakers to engage in the necessary tradeoffs to make progress in fixing our fiscal outlook. We commend them for putting forward a smart framework to develop and pass 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, 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.