On March 25, 2021, AEI and Claremont McKenna College’s Salvatori Center hosted a panel of experts to assess whether Congress can regain control over the nation’s finances and thus fortify representative government.

After an introduction from AEI’s John C. Fortier, AEI’s Kevin R. Kosar pointed to the unreality of the current budget process. Congressional spending is dominated by crisis omnibus bills, and delegation increasingly empowers executive agencies to raise revenue and spend with little oversight.

Claremont McKenna College’s Zachary Courser discussed how the 2011 abolition of earmarking did little to control spending and effectively transferred to the executive branch the power to direct funds. The imminent return of earmarks could increase bipartisanship while tangibly benefitting legislators’ districts.

AEI’s Philip Wallach analyzed recent executive attempts to independently direct spending. Nominally relying on statutory authority, both the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations managed to direct billions of dollars to programs without any congressional appropriation. While reforms could increase oversight of this process, these episodes expose Congress’ unwillingness to protect its own spending prerogatives.

Panelists also addressed the status quo bias of American fiscal policy, possible reforms to the budget process, and the role of entitlements.

— John Roach

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March 25, 2021 | AEI | Does Congress still control the power of the purse?

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