Two-year budgeting won't end gridlock, experts say

Two-year budgeting won't end gridlock, experts say

Despite expressing cautious support for a biennial budget process, both Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and Congressional Budget Office Director Dan Crippen told the House Rules Committee Friday that process changes may not be enough to solve the inherently political problem of year-end gridlock.

At the committee's second of three hearings examining the pros and cons of a biennial budget cycle, Lew said the Clinton administration has supported the idea since 1993, and focused his testimony on recommendations for ensuring the success of biennial budgeting.

Lew cited the need for ensuring flexibility in the second year of the two-year cycle, and the importance of providing for a smooth transition from an annual to a biennial budget process-particularly if legislation were enacted this year, with a new administration taking office in January. But he said that in the end, "I think it all comes down to the question of comity" between the executive and legislative branches, and their ability to negotiate an agreement, even in the case of divided government. "The question I think we have to answer is can we make it work even if it's written right," Lew said.

As a member of the legislative rather than executive branch, Crippen was more qualified in his support of biennial budgeting, and voiced concern that a two-year cycle would weaken Congress' control of the federal budget.

But Crippen also testified that a biennial budget could improve the annual appropriations process and give Congress and federal agencies more time to carry out the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

But he said that having Congress and the White House controlled by different political parties for much of the past two decades has made getting "basic agreement on major issues, including budget issues, difficult to reach. That disagreement, not the budget cycle, may be the biggest hurdle to smoother budget deliberations in Congress." House Rules will hold its final hearing on the topic Thursday.