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Jeanne S.
Democrat NH

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Jeanne Shaheen

    Posted on 2015-01-13

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    SHAHEEN. I thank the Presiding Officer and I thank my colleague Senator Isakson, and I am pleased to join him on the floor today as we reintroduce this bipartisan legislation, the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act. I want to start by recognizing the good work of Senator Isakson because he started working on this issue when he came to the Senate in 2005, and he has introduced this legislation in every Congress since then. I have been pleased to be able to join him in the last two Congresses.

    I think we have an opportunity in this Congress to pass this commonsense bipartisan reform. As Senator Isakson pointed out, there is no question that the budget process in Washington is broken. Since 1980 there have been only two budgets that have been finished on time, according to the process. In that timeframe Congress has resorted to more than 150 short-term funding bills or continuing resolutions, and we all remember what it was like when the government shut down in October of 2013. It cost the economy $24 billion. It hurt small business. It hurt people across this country. That is no way to govern.

    While we have made significant progress to reduce deficits in recent years, we need a new way to do business in Washington. Biennial budgeting won't fix everything, but as Senator Isakson said, it is an important reform that will allow us to work across the aisle not only to make more sense of the budget process but to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.

    We know that biennial budgeting works. I can attest to that personally, coming from the State of New Hampshire where we have a biennial budget. I served three terms as Governor. We were able in each of those bienniums to pass a budget that was balanced, that allowed us to get the budget done in the first year of the election cycle and in the second year to be able to have oversight. It works in New Hampshire, it works in 20 States around the country, and it can work in Washington.

    Biennial budgeting offers a better process that encourages us to work together to pass budgets on time and to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. As Senator Isakson says, in the first year congressional agencies would put together a 2-year budget. In the second year Congress would have time to conduct oversight to give agencies the ability to focus on achieving their missions.

    As we all know, there are regular reports from the Government Accountability Office, GAO, that identify areas of waste, fraud, and duplicative programs within government.

    For example, they have identified ways to reform the farm programs, to cut down on inefficiencies in defense, to reduce fraud in health programs, but the current budget process doesn't provide an effective mechanism to regularly review GAO's recommendations.

    Under my annual budgeting, we would be able to take a close look at [[Page S203]] those recommendations to implement savings in the second year which will allow us to figure out how we can more effectively provide programs to the American people and eliminate those that don't work and support those that do.

    As we said, in 2013 we had a very strong vote with 68 Senators voting to endorse the concept of biannual budgeting. It was a very strong bipartisan vote. A similar biannual budget bill passed the House last year with a bipartisan bill vote. It is clear the momentum is growing for this concept because people understand we have to do something to reform our budget process.

    The bill we are introducing today has 22 bipartisan cosponsors. I know we are both working to get more bipartisan sponsors on the bill, and we think we have a great shot, with support from this body, to pass biannual budgeting. We think there is support in the House to do that, and I look forward to working with Senator Isakson and my colleagues in the Senate to get this done.

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