Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Senator Lummis Introduces Sustainable Budget Act

May 11, 2021 | Budget Process

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) recently introduced the Sustainable Budget Act with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) as cosponsors. This bill joins other proposals to create one or more bipartisan commissions to address imbalances in the federal budget, including the bipartisan, bicameral Time to Rescue United States Trusts (TRUST) Act, which Senator Lummis cosponsors. 

The bill (S. 1174) would establish an 18-person, bipartisan commission to propose a reform package that would restore sustainability to the federal budget. The President would appoint six commissioners, with three from each major political party. The Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, and the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders would each appoint three members from their respective caucuses or conferences. Like the Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2010, commissioners would have a year to develop a bipartisan proposal to balance the primary budget (excluding interest) within ten years and to make other reforms in pursuit of long-term fiscal sustainability. This plan would require approval from at least twelve members, and at least four supporting members would need to come from each political party.

Upon approval by the commission, the proposal would receive fast-track consideration in the House and the Senate in the form of a joint resolution. The House Majority Leader and Senate Majority Leader, or a designated member, would submit this joint resolution in his or her respective chambers, and committee consideration would be limited to ten legislative days. Floor votes in both chambers would also be expedited without any amendments.

This bill is similar to H.R. 974, also called the Sustainable Budget Act, which Representatives Ed Case (D-HI) and Steve Womack (R-AR) introduced in the House in February. Several notable differences between the two bills exist, however. For example, while both versions allow the President to appoint six commissioners, the House version would permit as many as four of them to be from the same political party, whereas the Senate version would set a limit of three commissioners from each party. Furthermore, while the President would submit the commission's proposal to Congress under the House version, the commission would submit the proposal to Congress directly under the Senate version, and the President would separately transmit a special message to comment on the proposal.

This bill could be an important step toward correcting the federal government's unsustainable fiscal path. As we recover from the pandemic, putting the federal budget back on track will be essential to restoring fiscal space for future emergencies and to fostering prosperity. We applaud Senator Lummis and the bill’s cosponsors for their commitment to responsible budgeting.

You can read about other ways to improve our budget process and outcomes through our Better Budget Process Initiative.