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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the evolution of the budget process and challenges to changing the budget process. GAO noted that: (1) conflicts over who controlled the budget led to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 and Congress' role in setting federal fiscal policies and establishing spending priorities; (2) the act also established the Congressional Budget Office as an independent source of budget numbers and set up a process for the President to report budget rescissions and deferrals; (3) in 1985, the focus of the budget process shifted from increasing congressional control over the budget to reducing the deficit; (4) later legislation held Congress accountable for the part of the budget under its direct control, but did not seek to control growth in direct spending programs or tax expenditures, which are the main reasons for continued budget growth; (5) the budget process should provide a long-term perspective, focus on macro trade-offs between consumption and investment expenditures, provide necessary information to make informed trade-off decisions between missions areas, be enforceable, provide for control and accountability, and be transparent; (6) streamlining parts of the budget process may cause problems in other budget processes; (7) if the use of multiyear fiscal policy agreements continues, then annual budget resolutions could be eliminated, but a lookback procedure would become very important; and (8) a 2-year appropriation cycle would change the nature of the budget process, but how much time would be saved is unclear.

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