Senate Budget Members to Huddle With Two Former Chairmen on Overhaul This Week

Former Senate Budget Committee chairmen Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad will meet with current committee members on Wednesday to talk about overhauling the budget process.

A committee aide told CQ that the closed-door meeting, which will be followed by a private roundtable question-and-answer session, is part of an ongoing effort by Budget Committee Chairman Michael B. Enzi to change key elements in Congress’ budget process.

The meeting will be closed to the public and the press, so lawmakers can “speak freely” and to encourage a “free flow of ideas," the aide said, speaking on background.

Gregg, R-N.H., was chairman from 2005 to 2006, and Conrad, D-N.D., was chairman from 2001 to 2002 and again from 2007 to 2012. Each also spent time as ranking member.

Enzi has been advocating for changes to the budget process for years, but began moving forward with this particular plan in April when the committee held four hearings on federal financial data, outcome-based budgeting, government operations and how budgets affect results. The Wyoming Republican has been working closely with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who is filling in as the committee's top Democrat while Bernie Sanders campaigns for president, to advance a bipartisan bill.

Many ideas emerged from those hearings, including proposals to:

  • Eliminate the budget committee;
  • Move from annual to biennial budgeting and a biennial appropriations schedule;
  • Change the procedure that requires senators to vote for hours at a time and well into the night, often called a vote-a-rama;
  • Levy consequences such as withholding member pay and cancelling congressional recesses if the budget resolution is not adopted.

Since the hearings there has been one closed-door meeting among members. In May, Enzi, Whitehouse, Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as the staff of Senate Budget members, met to talk about efforts to move a bipartisan bill out of the committee this year.

The aide said that Enzi plans to have a bill released and marked up before July 15, when Congress leaves for its summer recess.

By:  Jennifer Shutt, CQ Roll Call
Source: Congressional Quarterly