URBANA — A two-year federal budgeting process would lead to less partisan feuding and gamesmanship in Congress, said U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, and he will sponsor legislation to enact it.
"It arguably eliminates brinksmanship, the rancor that's involved in partisan politics in the budgeting process," Johnson said Friday in a news conference outside his Urbana home. "Secondly, because we've framed this in the odd years, it eliminates the political process."
Budgets would be approved in odd-numbered, nonelection years, Johnson said. In even-numbered years under his proposal, lawmakers could review spending policies and possibly find ways to save money. He said Congress in 2010 appropriated $290 billion for 250 laws that had already expired, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
"Both from a good-government standpoint and a fiscal-stewardship standpoint this makes a lot of sense," Johnson said.
Only six times since 1974 has Congress met its deadline for completion of a budget resolution, he said.
The legislation allows for emergency spending approval, he said, with a three-fifths vote of both houses.
The federal government has never operated under biennial budgeting. The state of Illinois had a two-year budget until 1970 when it moved to annual spending plans.
Congress has discussed biennial budgeting before but never enacted the proposal. One reason, according to testimony in 2000 by former CBO Director Dan Crippen, was that Congress would lose some control over funding.
Johnson acknowledged that's still a consideration.
"I don't expect this legislation to be easily passed," he said. "Politicians operate on brinksmanship. To be honest with you, most Republicans and Democrats — House and Senate members — like brinksmanship. That's the way they get leverage. And that's bad government."
But voters want to see an end to the political games, he said.
"The one thing I'm hearing is, Why don't you folks get along?" Johnson said. "Why don't you folks stick to your principles but do it in a way that serves the American people? We're not doing that and I think this legislation opens the way for a significant change."
Johnson said he was certain there would be bipartisan support for the biennial budget and said he hoped to have Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, as a major cosponsor.