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Arkansas congressman set to lead panel to revamp budget process

by Frank E. Lockwood | February 28, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- The federal budgetary process is "in serious need of overhaul," U.S. Rep. Steve Womack said on Tuesday.

He said he's hopeful that the new Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform can help fix perennial problems with the system.

The lawmaker from Rogers, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, was named as the joint select committee's Republican chairman Tuesday.

Budgetary and appropriations changes are overdue, he said. "What we're doing right now hasn't been working. And there's no sign that it's going to start working," Womack said in an interview. "The purpose of the committee is to look at process reform so that we can make it work."

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 gives the 16-member committee until Nov. 30 to "provide recommendations and legislative language that will significantly reform the budget and appropriations process."

The legislative timeline began running Feb. 9, the day President Donald Trump signed the bill into law. The first meeting is supposed to take place within 30 days of the signing.

The bipartisan committee, which includes eight House and eight Senate members, eight Democrats and eight Republicans, will meet publicly at least five times and will hold at least three public hearings.

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 has been problematic for decades, but the obstacles have increased in recent years, Womack said.

"Right now, we're just divided. And what do we do? We threaten government shutdowns and we get on [fiscal] cliffs. And we keep everybody guessing. That's no way to run the federal government, nor is it any way to run a business," Womack said.

According to the Pew Research Center, Congress has passed its appropriations bills on time only four times: in fiscal 1977, 1989, 1995 and 1997.

Often, Congress is unable to agree on a budget, resorting to a series of stopgap spending measures instead.

Womack hopes lawmakers can come up with a better system.

As of midday Tuesday, only 12 of the 16 members had been announced.

"So far, what I've seen is people I can work with, I can talk to and have a civil discussion [with] and hopefully reach some kind of bipartisan consensus," Womack said. "You can't just dump this on a certain person's shoulders and have a good outcome. It's going to take a total team effort for us to get where this country needs us to be."

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who named Womack to the joint committee, portrayed him as the right person for the job.

"In the military, in Arkansas, and in Congress, Steve is a proven leader," Ryan said in a written statement last week. "As Chairman of the House Budget Committee and an appropriator, he has unique insight into all aspects of our federal budgeting process. I am confident that his experience -- combined with his passion for budgetary reform -- will be an asset in developing the reforms necessary to make Washington work."

Metro on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Womack set to lead panel to revamp budget process

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