On January 18, 2024, the House Budget Committee favorably reported to the House of Representatives H.R. 5779, the Fiscal Commission Act of 2024, by a largely partisan vote of 22-12.  The Committee’s action on the manager’s substitute amendment to the bill is the last step before H.R. 5779 can be brought to the House Floor for a vote.  Four amendments were defeated by similarly partisan votes, including amendments to protect Social Security and Medicare.

The substitute bill’s major provisions include:

Establishment of Commission:  The Commission is to be established no later than 60 days after enactment of legislation creating the Commission.  The Commission’s goals are to educate and bring awareness to the American public about the Nation’s fiscal path and the risk posed by debt.

Duties of Commission:  The Commission is tasked with the duties of identifying policies to improve the Federal government’s long-term fiscal condition, including reducing the debt and deficits, achieving a sustainable ratio of debt to gross domestic product of no more than 100 percent by fiscal year 2039, and improving the solvency of programs for which a Federal trust fund exists for at least 75 years.  In achieving its goals, the Commission is required, to the extent practicable, to consider macroeconomic variables and to propose recommendations that meaningfully improve the long-term fiscal condition of the Federal government, including changes to both current and future levels of discretionary appropriations, direct spending, revenues and the gap between revenues and expenditures.

Committee membership:  The Commission is composed of 16 members, four of whom are nonvoting outside experts.  The 12 voting members of the Commission will include six Senators and six members of the House of Representatives, equally divided between appointees of the leaders of each party.  The four nonvoting outside experts will also be appointed by the leadership of each party in the House and Senate.  One voting Commission member from each party will be selected by the Congressional leadership to serve as co-chairs.

Voting:  Seven voting Commission members constitute a quorum for purposes of meeting, holding hearings and voting.  No proxy voting is allowed.  The Congressional Budget Office is required to provide estimates on the budgetary impact of any recommendations considered by the Commission at least 48 hours prior to any vote.  A simple majority of seven Commission members is also required to favorably report out any recommendations by the Commission.  Only two of the seven votes in favor are required to be from each political party.  There are no minimum requirements for each legislative body – in other words, an affirmative vote by only a single Senator or Representative would be sufficient to send the Commissions’ recommendations to Congress if all six appointees from the other legislative body voted in favor.

Meeting requirements:  No less than 45 days after it is established, the Commission is required to hold its first meeting.  The co-chairs are responsible for distributing an agenda for each meeting to the members of the Commission at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.  There appears to be no specific requirement that any of the Commission’s meetings be open to the public, though they would presumably be subject to the Federal Open Meetings Act.

Hearing requirements:  The Commission is required to hold no less than six hearings, which shall include field hearings throughout the Nation, and hearings to solicit testimony from officials of the executive branch and from members of Congress.  The co-chairs are required to make a public announcement of the date, place, time and subject matter of any hearing no later than seven days before the date of the hearing.  There appears to be no requirement that the hearings themselves are open to the public or televised, though they also would presumably be subject to the Federal Open Meetings Act.

Commission Report:  The Commission may meet to consider and vote on an Interim Report, but there appears to be no requirement for such a report nor time constraints on when it might be issued.  No later than December 12, 2024, the Commission is required to meet and vote on a final report that includes a detailed statement of the Commission’s findings, conclusions and recommendations, along with legislative language implementing its recommendations.  There appears to be no language that would prevent the Commission from issuing its report prior to that deadline.  If a report is issued early and Congress meets in a lame duck session after the election on November 5, 2024, the expedited timeline would allow for a vote on the recommendations by the lame duck Congress, which necessarily would include numerous members who would not be returning in the subsequent session of Congress.  A simple majority of seven Commissioners may vote to extend the deadline until May 15, 2025 so long as at least two voting members from each political party support the extension.  The affirmative vote of a simple majority of seven of the 12 voting Commissioners is sufficient to approve the report, so long as at least two of the seven are members of each political party.  The report, recommendations, legislative language and a record of the Commissioner’s votes are not required to be made public until 24 hours after the Commission has voted.  There appears to be no prohibition on the language being released to the public prior to the vote.

Congressional action:  The report, recommendations and legislative language approved by the Commission are to be transmitted to the President, Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the majority leaders of each House of Congress no later than three days after the material is made available to the public.

Action by the House:  A bill containing only the legislative language recommended by the Commission shall be introduced in the House by request by the majority leader of the House or his/her designee on the third legislative day after the language is submitted.  If no bill is introduced by the leadership within the three days, any Member of the House may introduce the legislation on any day after the next legislative day.  Any Committee to which the implementing bill is referred must report the bill to the House, without amendment, no later than five legislative days after the date on which the bill was referred.  Any Committee that fails to report out the implementing legislation shall be automatically discharged from consideration of the bill and the bill shall be placed on the appropriate calendar.  All procedural issues related to the bill, including points of order, are waived.  The bill is not subject to amendment. The bill is subject to two hours of debate on the House Floor, equally divided between proponents and opponents of the bill.  The vote on passage occurs under the constraints of clause 8 of rule XX of the Rules of the House, which allows the Speaker authority to postpone certain votes for up to two legislative days.  There is no requirement for a supermajority vote to approve the bill.

Action by the Senate:  A bill containing only the implementing language of the Commission’s report shall be introduced by request by the Senate majority  and the minority leader or their designee on the first day the Senate is in session after the bill is transmitted to the Senate.  The bill is immediately placed on the Calendar of Business under General Orders, without being first referred to any Committee of jurisdiction.  Not later than two days of session after the bill is placed on the Calendar, the majority leader or his/her designee may move to proceed to the consideration of the bill.  If no such motion is made after the second day, any Senator may move to proceed to the consideration of the bill.  All points of order against proceeding to the bill or against the bill itself are waived, and the motion to proceed is not subject to debate or to postponement or reconsideration.  No similar limit applies to the vote on the bill itself.  In other words, the vote on final passage remains subject to filibuster, but none of the earlier steps in the Senate process can be used to delay the bill.  In particular, no amendments to the bill are allowed, nor are motions to postpone the vote, to consider other business, or to send the bill to Committee, and if a motion to proceed to the consideration of the implementing bill is agreed to, it shall remain the unfinished business until disposed of.

Action by Congress:  If one House completes action before the other, the same legislative procedures apply to any bill sent from one House to the other.  However, the right of the House to originate revenue bills is protected.  If the President vetoes an implementing bill, debate on a vote to override the veto is limited to 10 hours equally divided between proponents and opponents of the motion in the Senate.



Language of the bill, amendments, and videos of House Committee action are available on the House Budget Committee website:  https://budget.house.gov/