This transcript documented an interview of the House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen, Brock Adams and Edmund Muskie, on the Agronsky Evening Edition television program on October 21, 1975. Adams and Muskie discussed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The act established the standing House and Senate Budget Committees, as well as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to provide independent analysis. In the interview, Adams described the genesis of the act: “[S]o both the liberals and the conservatives arrived at the conclusion that first they wanted control over overall spending and second they wanted control of where the money was spent within an overall target and that’s the budget act.”
Like other institutional reforms in the House in the 1970s, fallout from actions of former President Richard M. Nixon spurred the House to reassert its constitutional prerogative over federal spending. In response to what he saw as unmitigated and irresponsible spending by Congress, Nixon impounded—or refused to spend—congressionally appropriated funds, often for programs he didn’t support. In response, the Budget Act limited the President’s power to impound funds. It also attempted to rein in the unruly and top-heavy process of appropriations in the House. The act required the House Budget Committee to make independent analyses of the budget provided by the President. By comparing them with proposed spending in legislation and Congressional Budget Office estimates, the committee could then create a concurrent budget resolution that, in theory, the combined appropriations for the fiscal year should not exceed.
In the interview with moderator Martin Agronsky, Adams and Muskie did not delude themselves about the difficulty of the task, especially of remaining objective when power was concentrated in one party. Muskie mused, “There’s been every effort . . . in establishing this process to make it independent. For example, the Congressional Budget Office is an independent agency although it serves us; and we hope its [sic] always that way. We hope.” Adams chimed in, “That’s what we’re doing--trying to get a process that will survive in the Congress and will be here regardless of president.”