“To me, the budget process should be based on efficiency rather than politics; the financial future of our nation is too severe an issue to be hindered by the pull and tug of partisan politics.”
Merely a few months ago, I typed these words as I wrote a paper on the federal budget process for my Budgeting and Financial Management course. The class was not one I ever would have chosen, considering my deep aversion to math, instead, it was a graduation requirement for my Masters in Public Administration Program. As the semester wore on, I learned about the federal budget process: how it is effective in nature as it establishes a constitutional balance in budgetary actions, and, how it can be ineffective, due to timing and funding delays, which can decrease the speed and quality of services delivered. I learned a lot, but I ended the semester with an ultimately limited “textbook” understanding of the federal budget process. Something was missing; I was not connecting theory to practice.
Fast forward to October 4th. I was working as a Legislative Associate for The McKeon Group and on the hill for a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing. I sat on the edge of my seat in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, waiting to learn the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which had expired on September 30th. The room was packed, filled with people wondering what would happen to the 9 million children who receive low-cost health coverage through CHIP.
Chairman Hatch gaveled the meeting into order, took a voice vote, and announced a bipartisan consensus to reauthorize the program. Audible sighs of relief were heard around the room, as other members vocalized the importance of the bipartisan accord on this vote, and most importantly, the need for CHIP reauthorization. Ranking Member Wyden commended the committee, stating there were several senators on both sides of the aisle who wanted to offer controversial amendments but withdrew them to ensure a strong bipartisan vote, so children would not be at risk.
Sitting there in the hearing I had my “aha moment,” so to speak. Months ago, I struggled to make the real-world connection between the budget process and its “real world” implications. Yet, in that moment, it became clear to me. Yes, I was at this meeting for a client, but, I realized that I personally understood the importance of reauthorization. I, like many, was concerned about the fate of the 9 million children who would be stripped of coverage if partisan gridlock hindered reauthorization. The words from my class paper, “efficiency rather than politics,” rung true more than ever as I exited the hearing. To me, that day was a prime example of Members of Congress doing their job, correctly, and efficiently. Amid the political impasse over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Action, this one hearing shone out to me, as a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope for the future of politics.