By Maria Saporta
In an all-too-rare spirit of bipartisan cooperation, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) appeared jointly at the Rotary Club of Atlanta urging for the federal government to convert to a two-year budget cycle.
“We have to change the way we do business in Washington,” said Shaheen, a former governor of New Hampshire who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.
During their Rotary presentation, Shaheen said she asked Isakson if she could support his effort to reform the federal budgeting process and be the Democratic co-sponsor to the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act.
New Hampshire is one of 20 states that operates on a two-year budget cycle, and she fully understand the merits of running a government with that kind of predictability.
By comparison, the U.S. Congress has had difficulties passing annual budgets and appropriations bills in recent years because of a breakdown in party politics. A breakthrough did occur late last year when Congress was able to pass both a budget and appropriations bill.
Still, both senators believe that having a two-year federal budget would help Washington, D.C. function in a more professional rather than political basis.
Isakson has sponsored biennial budgeting proposals every years since he’s been in the U.S. Senate.
Shaheen said their proposed bill would call for the U.S. Congress to pass a two-year budget in the non-election year and then conduct a thorough oversight of the federal budget — looking for inefficiencies and reform — during the election year.
In a non-binding vote in the U.S. Senate, the Isakson-Shaheen bill received 68 votes with support coming from both parties.
“I do think this is an idea whose time has come,” Shaheen said.
Isakson said having Shaheen as a co-sponsor of the bill added to its credibility because she can speak from first-hand experience on how it works in New Hampshire and how it can work in Washington, D.C. and for the federal government.
“This is good for the country as a whole,” Isakson said.
After the Rotary meeting, Shaheen and Isakson talked about their partnership.
“Johnny has been working on this legislation since before I got to the Senate,” Shaheen said. “In 2011, I looked to see which bills had lost their Democratic co-sponsors and this looked like it needed a Democratic co-sponsor.”
Isakson welcomed her aboard, and since then they have kicked off a campaign to get the legislation passed.
“We are in the sales business,” Isakson said. “I’ve already been to New Hampshire. We’ll go anywhere to talk about this.”
Asked about whether they would be modeling the effort after the
“Gang of Six” started by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Isakson said: “We don’t do gangs. We are dating — politically.”
Shaheen said they are trying to get the bill passed through the legislative process.
“We are building the number of sponsors on both sides of the aisles,” Shaheen said. “We are raising the profile.”