Column: Congress must budget responsibly

Paul Mitchell

As someone who spent his career in the private sector, the culture of Washington, D.C., was both shocking and disappointing. But I now have a clear understanding of how our nation has become nearly $21 trillion in debt. The way Washington budgets and spends our tax dollars is antiquated, dysfunctional, and piles an unconscionable amount of debt on our children and grandchildren.

The voters elected me to serve because they trusted that my “outsider” perspective and successful career in business would allow me to bring fresh eyes to our nation’s fiscal crisis. After examining the problem up close and seeing the obvious procedural flaws in the budgeting process, my colleague Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, and I introduced legislation we believe will put our nation on stronger financial ground. Our legislation, the Protecting Our Children’s Future Act, will provide Congress with the tools it needs to responsibly budget for the future and rein in out of control spending.

Congress must be forced to do its job and pass a budget. The outdated and ineffective Budget Act of 1974 legally requires members of Congress to pass an annual budget, but there is no penalty if they fail to meet that charge. Our bill requires each new Congress to pass a budget by June 30 of the year it takes office or else members’ pay will be withheld until a budget is passed. Simply put: no budget, no pay.

Our bill changes the annual budgeting process to a more realistic two-year budget timeline that allows congressional committees to have increased oversight of how money is spent. Our bill eliminates baseline budgeting, instead requiring zero-based budgeting, which forces federal bureaucrats to start at zero, then justify every penny they wish to spend. Our bill takes a great deal of frivolous spending off autopilot to allow an honest analysis of these programs’ benefits and return to taxpayers and our nation. To be clear, our bill does not change spending for Medicare, Social Security, military Tri-Care and veterans benefits in any way.

This legislation also streamlines procedures for passage of appropriations bills in the Senate, while maintaining protections against procedural abuse. The House typically passes appropriations bills, but the Senate frequently becomes paralyzed in their inability to pass bills or even start the process, bogging down the system and causing unnecessary government shutdowns.

I will continue my work toward the passage of a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution and further budget reforms to better align the disjointed congressional budgeting and spending processes. The changes in this legislation are a strong start to moving this process forward.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional district.