Biennial Budget Floated

By David Baumann

Although he admits it may be a struggle, Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Monday a growing number of legislators are supporting his proposal for a two-year budget cycle.

"It will be tough sledding," Domenici told reporters, predicting a "hard- fought battle."

Under Domenici's plan, which is being co- sponsored by several senators, including Governmental Affairs Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and Minority Whip Wendell Ford, D-Ky., the President would be required to submit a two-year budget plan during the first year of a Congress. Congress would then adopt a two-year budget resolution and a reconciliation bill, as well as two-year appropriations bills.

The Domenici bill would establish budgeting and appropriating as a priority for the first year of any Congress by allowing legislators to raise a point of order against any authorizing or revenue measure until spending legislation is completed.

Domenici said 41 senators supported his proposal during the 104th Congress and that since the committees of jurisdiction in the Senate are Thompson's and his, the plan will not be bottled up in committee. Domenici predicted younger senators will support the legislation, saying, "They are befuddled by this process."

Domenici said the plan would be a "dramatic change in the way we do business," saying an analysis showed 73 percent of the votes made during the 104th Congress were budget-related. "We frequently vote on the same issue two or three times each year," Domenici said, arguing that, in addition, most appropriations measures are basically similar from year to year.

Supporters said the preoccupation with spending issues takes up too much time. "There's no time for Congress to do anything else," Domenici said. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., said the second year of a Congress would be used for oversight issues. "If there's anything we do poorly, it's oversight," he said.

Domenici said he believes the majority of senators will support the bill, adding that Senate Majority Leader Lott and Senate Appropriations Chairman Stevens already have endorsed the measure. Domenici admitted, however, that there are powerful opponents, including Senate Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and House Appropriations Chairman Livingston.

House appropriators have argued they would have to pass a large supplemental appropriations bill in the off-year. However, a Senate Budget Committee aide said a recent CBO analysis showed that 96 percent of funding issues are predictable.

Domenici said appropriators also have contended they provide an oversight function they would not be able to provide if they considered spending bills every two years, a notion he disputed. "They don't have either the staff or the time to do the type of oversight this nation demands," he said.

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