At Senate budget hearing, a sharp take on the stalled progress

Senate Budget Committee hearings on fixing the budget process are not noteworthy for their drama or tension. Wednesday’s hearing, however, may be an exception.

One of the three witnesses at the 10:30 a.m. hearing is Stan Collender, executive vice president of the PR firm Qorvis MSLGroup and a longtime commentator on the federal budget (his Twitter handle is @TheBudgetGuy).

In his prepared testimony (which has been posted here), Mr. Collender dispenses with the usual praise for the committee chair for convening a hearing on this important issue. Instead, he chastises the committee for refusing to invite the White House budget director for the traditional hearing to explain and defend president’s budget. “How it is possible that the same Senate Budget Committee that so far has refused to develop and vote on a budget resolution for the coming year is now holding a hearing to fix the budget process it refuses to follow?” he asks.

“The existing budget process is not the problem,” he adds. “Congress can do whatever it wants to do right now. The problem is that the Senate Budget Committee, the full Senate and Congress as a whole can’t figure out what they want to do and no one is willing to compromise.”

Mr. Collender has a point. Although Republicans control both the House and Senate, neither house appears able or willing to adopt a budget resolution under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. That has little practical significance given the ceilings on annually appropriated spending for the coming fiscal year to which the president and Congress agreed in late 2015. But it does undercut the congressional leadership’s talk of returning to “regular order” this year. And there seems to be hardly any interest this year in seeking a significant compromise on taxes and spending that could get through Congress and win the president’s signature despite widespread expressions of angst about the disappointing pace of economic growth and projections for a rising federal debt.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R, Wyo.) said recently that the current budget process “is designed to fail” and that he is seeking a way to “enforce long-term spending discipline so that agencies, businesses, and constituents can plan accordingly.”

Wonder what he’ll have to say to Mr. Collender at Wednesday’s hearing.

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire.