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Burchett, Case, and Womack Introduce RAFT Act

One way to begin addressing our unsustainable fiscal situation is to set fiscal goals, which could come in the form of debt targets. A new bill introduced by Representatives Tim Burchett (R-TN), Ed Case (D-HI), and House Budget Committee Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) would do just that. H.R. 5178, the Reforming America's Fiscal Toolkit (RAFT) Act of 2019, would require budget resolutions to set debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) targets and would create new processes in the budget resolution to help reduce our high and rising national debt. The RAFT Act follows recent attention drawn to our fiscal situation by other bills introduced in both legislative chambers: Representatives Case and Womack recently introduced the Sustainable Budget Act, and several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced House and Senate versions of the TRUST Act.

The RAFT Act would establish two ways for a budget resolution to facilitate action on achieving its fiscal targets: instructions to committees or instructions for a new Joint Select Committee on Fiscal Responsibility (JSC).

The first option would create reconciliation-like instructions for authorizing committees to generate enough savings to meet the debt-to-GDP targets in the budget resolution. Authorizing committees would choose the particular policies to achieve the required levels of savings. The budget committees would then report the combined bill, and the House and Senate would consider the legislation under expedited procedures that require a simple majority for passage in both chambers.

The alternative option would establish a bicameral and bipartisan Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Fiscal Responsibility to agree to a comprehensive set of savings to achieve the debt-to-GDP targets set in the budget resolution. The JSC would consist of 16 members, divided evenly by chamber and party. If the majority of members of each party in the JSC agreed to the recommendations, they would be considered under expedited procedures in the House and Senate (though the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end debate on the measure would not change). 

This JSC would also function as a backstop if the standing committees failed to achieve debt targets, though it would do so on a much tighter timeline.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget president Maya MacGuineas praised the measure: 

With the national debt at its highest level since World War II, it’s more important now than ever that we set responsible fiscal goals. The Reforming America’s Fiscal Toolkit (RAFT) Act of 2019, proposed by Representatives Burchett (R-TN), Case (D-HI), and Womack (R-AR), would strengthen the budget resolution by including debt-to-GDP targets and by creating new processes to meet those goals. This legislation would strengthen efforts to confront our debt challenges and expand bipartisan opportunities for meaningful budget decisions. We applaud these efforts and encourage others to support the RAFT Act.

Representatives Burchett, Case, and Womack should be commended for highlighting the urgency around fixing the nation's finances and helping the budget set a sustainable goal for our large and growing national debt. Reforming the process alone won't fix the issue, but it will amplify the message and provide lawmakers a path to make the tough decisions necessary to raise sufficient revenue, reduce the cost of entitlement programs, and cut low-priority spending. Read more about other budget process reform ideas and proposals in our Better Budget Process Initiative