If Republicans take the Senate in November, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to review and rework some of the basic structures of Congress to make it more efficient and modern.
“We’re a century behind, you know?” McCarthy told Politico, saying Congress is operating on the level of a rotary phone, and some of its antiquated structures hold lawmakers back. “The ideas are great,” he said, “but what stops the ideas from becoming law? Some of the archaic things we do.”
On his list is an automatic system to review government inefficiencies, a review of the House committee structure, a more efficient Senate and House schedule, and changes to the budget process. “Is the committee structure we came up with in 1994, and before that in the ’50s, really what’s best today?” McCarthy asked Politico. “Maybe, but you don’t know. We should audit them. Accountability matters.”
By systematically identifying and removing inefficiencies, streamlining the two chambers schedules and maybe reworking the committee process, McCarthy hopes to restore voters faith in the congressional process and address the frustration he has sensed with President Obama’s handling of Obamacare, Ebola and the various scandals of the past few years.
A central part of the vision is getting fiscal cliffs and government spending bills out of the way, so Congress can focus on other legislative issues. He hopes a long term funding bill is passed in the lame duck session. “If we are fortunate to have both majorities, take away any cliff you can have hanging out there,” McCarthy told Politico. “If you have a cliff, it takes attention away.”
And rather than budget every year, he thinks Congress should budget every two years. He also wants to reform the Congressional Budget Office so it looks at a longer-term impact of legislation — about every 20 years instead of 10. “The budget act is the Budget Act of 1974,” he told Politico. “Does the world look like it did in ’74?”
Some outside experts agree.
“It is absolutely critical that legislation is scored over a longer time-horizon than 10 years,” Heritage Foundation budget economist Romina Boccia told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As we are learning first hand now with Obamacare, 10-year scores are too easily manipulated and can hide the most important fiscal impacts of major policy changes.”
But the two year budget would hurt more than it might help, she said. “A two-year budget cycle might well exacerbate problems in the current process and would undoubtedly give occasion to yet more frequent requests for supplemental spending — inflating spending and the deficit in the process.”
McCarthy’s plan is of course contingent on Republicans controlling the House and the Senate next year, but he’s confident that will happen. But he told a group of donors recently that if Republicans don’t prove they can govern, “there won’t be a Republican president in 2016.”
New York Rep. Steve Israel, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, called McCarthy’s plan “laughable” in a statement Monday. “Republicans have spent the past four years pledging to change-to reach out to women and minorities, to develop a real agenda that focuses on jobs,” he said.
“But in reality, all they’ve done is retreat further into their out-of-touch, insulated Tea Party echo chamber, shut down the government and continue to protect wealthy special interests at the expense of middle class families. Americans are tired of their empty promises, and won’t be fooled again.”
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