“One of the most fundamental duties entrusted to us is the power of the purse.”

Womack Leads Effort to Reform the Way Tax Dollars are Budgeted & Spent

WASHINGTON, DC – With the federal budget process broken and the national debt going through the roof, The Ripon Society held a breakfast discussion yesterday morning with the leader responsible for reforming this process and getting federal spending under control.

The leader is U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (AR-3). Womack serves as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. He also serves as Co-Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, a bipartisan panel that was created earlier this year and given the task of improving the way taxpayer dollars are budgeted and spent.

“One of the most fundamental duties entrusted to us is the power of the purse,” Womack stated. “We have moved so far away from a reliable and accurate process that we are just nonfunctional for the most part anymore. Having a functioning framework by which to decide budgetary outcomes should not be a partisan issue. It should be something that the two sides should be able to come together on and find common ground.”

“I can’t predict the outcome, but I’m pretty confident we will do something. We have members of our Committee who want to be bold, and we have some members of the Committee who probably are not too predisposed to doing anything too radical. I come from the camp of ‘move the ball in the right direction’ … One of my biggest challenges as one of the Co-Chairs of the Select Committee is keeping our members focused on process and not necessarily with outcomes. It’s the process that will drive the outcome, not vice versa.”

To that end, Womack – who co-chairs the Select Committee with Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York – stated that one of the reforms of the process that panel members are “coalescing” around is biennial budgeting, which would extend the fiscal horizon of America so the country can plan not just for the next 12 months, but for the next two years.

“I do think we’re coalescing around the notion that we’re going to be in a biennial budget atmosphere at the end of the cycle,” the Arkansas lawmaker stated. “Whether we do annual appropriations or biennial appropriation still remains to be seen. I could make an argument that one of our most important duties as appropriators is to provide oversight for the bureaucracies that are spending the money. After we write the appropriations bills, sadly, a lot of the appropriations work is over. There’s not a lot of oversight that happens after that.”

“I personally think that if you did a biennial appropriations process, it would strengthen your ability to provide oversight of taxpayer money. And if the Appropriations Committees would spend that time — take that extra year — to do better oversight, then I think it would be a very nice outcome for the Congress.”

In addition to talking about his role as Co-Chair of the Select Committee on Budget Reform, Womack also discussed his role as Budget Committee Chairman and the critical but daunting job of getting America’s fiscal house in order.

“We have a spending issue,” he declared, in response to a question about America’s growing deficit and $21 trillion national debt. “It’s a spending-driven debt crisis. It’s not related to anything other than spending. We’ve overpromised our country. I think where we fall woefully short is dealing with the inconvenient truth of the true drivers of the deficit and the debt.

“We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up over issues like the omnibus package, continuing resolutions, and discretionary spending – both defense and non-defense. We seem to wage a lot of battles over that, forgetting that the real money is on the mandatory side. And nobody ever really wants to do more than just give lip service to it. So at the end of the day we have to recognize that we have over promised our country, and we are going to have to make some fundamental — and in some cases pretty drastic — reforms to the social safety net programs that are the true drivers of the deficits and the debt.

“It is 70 percent of federal spending now. And in the 10-year window that we are marking budgets to, it goes to almost 80 percent of federal spending. I think I can make the argument that the sooner we deal with it and confront it — it’s kind of like dealing with a major illness. You put it off, and the situation is going to get worse and the condition is going to eventually drive you to where you have no option but to do something very draconian — which we would all like to avoid.

“So this is a very slow moving train wreck that is not gonna end well if the Congress doesn’t decide that we have to fundamentally reform the programs for long term sustainability. Nobody is talking about doing away with Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. But we do have to look at those principal drivers of the deficits and the debt and reform those for long term sustainability.”

To view Womack’s remarks before The Ripon Society breakfast discussion yesterday morning, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.