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Legislative Updates

Senate Budget Committee approves budget process overhaul bill

Today, the Senate Budget Committee advanced the Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S. 2765) in a 15-6 vote, which saw four committee Democrats join all 11 Republicans in support of the measure.

While keeping the annual appropriations process, the bill would overhaul the way budget resolutions are set by switching from one-year to two-year budgets and would need to establish a debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) target. That could then trigger an automatic reconciliation process to pass legislation to reduce the deficit in order to hit the target. This would be an almost automatic increase in the debt limit, in order to eliminate partisanship from such decision-making.

In the absence of Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Ron Wyden sat in and strongly opposed the bill as it would “put budget reconciliation on steroids.” Other committee Democrats criticized the measure as they believe it could require Congress to fast-track legislation to reduce a deficit, which many suggest could lead to harmful cuts to lifesaving programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. “I don’t want this to be a glide path for privatizing Medicare,” said Sen. Wyden.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) all voted in favor of the measure. Sen. Whitehouse noted that the current budget process is in dire need of improvement saying, “I think we’re at the beginning of a long but healthy process.”

“This is a big deal and it is important to get it right,” said Sen. Whitehouse, but warned that if Senate leadership did not follow regular order if the bill comes to the floor, it would lose his support.

The pathway toward Senate and House passage seems difficult if not outright unlikely as much of the bill will need to be amended to garner enough votes, should Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) even bring the bill to a vote. House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) criticized the measure for doing nothing to rein in potential abuses by the executive branch, spelling a difficult path in the House.

NALC will be sure to keep letter carriers updated on any movement of this bill in the coming weeks and months.

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