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‘Biennial Budgeting Act’ would tighten spending, strengthen oversight, tackle debt

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., today reintroduced their bipartisan budget reform legislation that would shake up the way Congress budgets federal tax dollars and allow for greater oversight of government spending. The legislation would convert Congress’ annual appropriations process to a two-year budget cycle.

The Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, S.306, would force Congress to become a better steward of the taxpayers’ money by moving the federal government to a two-year budget cycle, with one year for appropriating federal dollars and the other year devoted to oversight of federal programs.

“Sen. Shaheen and I are joining together again to change the way Washington handles its broken budget system,” said Isakson. “Voters spoke out in November and they want a change in the way Washington does business. They want Congress to get a handle on the national debt. It’s time that Washington does what every American family has to do: Sit down and figure out what’s working and what isn’t and set spending priorities. This system would increase oversight and reduce wasteful spending, making our federal government more efficient and more accountable to taxpayers.”

“Our biennial budgeting legislation offers a bipartisan, pragmatic reform to our country’s broken budget process,” Shaheen said. “In New Hampshire, we have seen firsthand that biennial budgeting works, and it’s time to bring this common-sense reform to Washington. Our bipartisan proposal will allow for better oversight of taxpayer dollars and a more thoughtful budget process with fewer opportunities for manufactured crises.”

In 2013, the Isakson-Shaheen proposal passed by a 68-31 vote in the Senate as an amendment to that year’s budget resolution, which is a non-binding blueprint. In 2015, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the legislation. Additionally, in 2016, both the Senate Budget Committee and House Budget Committee chairmen included versions of biennial budgeting in separate proposals to reform the federal budget process.

The legislation requires the president to submit a two-year budget at the beginning of the first session of a Congress. Members of Congress would then need to adopt a two-year budget resolution and two-year appropriations bills during that first session. The second session of a Congress would then be devoted to the consideration of authorization bills and oversight of federal programs.

The biennial budgeting concept has been endorsed by Republican and Democratic presidents, as well as by numerous federal budget experts. Isakson has supported biennial budgeting proposals every year he’s been in the Senate, while Shaheen has firsthand experience with the efficacy of biennial budgeting from her tenure as governor of New Hampshire, which operates on a two-year budget cycle. Nineteen states operate under a biennial budgeting cycle.

Along with introduction by Isakson and original co-sponsorship by Shaheen, 12 senators have signed on to support their legislation including U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, along with U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Tom Carper, D-Del., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., John McCain, R-Ariz., Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Mark Warner, D-Va.