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October 25, 2014

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Reid wants to revisit two-year budget cycle for Congress

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addresses a joint session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013.

After spending the past several years locking horns with Republicans over the federal budget every few months, Sen. Harry Reid could be persuaded to rip a page from the Nevada Legislature, and plan on budgeting just once every two years instead.

“It’s something I would really like to take a look at,” Reid said to reporters Thursday. “It’s something we should consider.”

Congress negotiates the federal budget in one-year chunks, with funding going from Oct. 1 to the following Sept. 30. Lately, though, they have been funding the federal government through a series of continuing resolutions: measures that stretch out federal funding at existing levels for a given amount of time. Continuing resolutions are usually passed as patches to give lawmakers more time to come to agreement on a fresh budget; as such, they are normally shorter than a year.

That situation has been frustrating for many lawmakers and inspired some, such as Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, to push for policies that would force the Senate into drafting annual budgets by withholding pay. A watered-down version of Heller’s “No Budget, No Pay” was included in the last continuing resolution Congress passed, in January.

But Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., are taking a different approach, filing a bill Wednesday to institute biennial budgeting. They’ve already picked up a few sponsors — from across the political spectrum.

It wouldn’t be the first time Congress — or Reid — has considered going to a two-year budget schedule, as is the practice of several state legislatures, including Nevada’s.

In his early years as a senator, then-Majority Leader George Mitchell appointed Reid to a special panel examining the idea of moving to a two-year budget. But then-President Pro Tempore Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia didn’t like the idea — and the special committee’s efforts fell apart.

But Reid suggested the time could be ripe to take a renewed look at such a proposal.

“We have had, over the years, many people who’ve said that this is probably a good idea,” Reid said Thursday. “And if we were ever going to do that, we should take a look at it now, because we’re getting back into the appropriations process.”

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