Believe it or not, at one time in the late 1980s and early '90s, Washington gave serious consideration to increasing the federal budget cycle from one year to two. Periodically, the idea resurfaces.
Indeed, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., earlier this year introduced the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, although this is possibly the worst possible political climate for a significant, bipartisan change in the budget process.
Isakson believes the two-year cycle should be part of any deal ending the current government shutdown and hopes the extra time will bring "discipline" and "responsibility" back to the budget process.
The process is badly in need of those qualities, as well as a sense of punctuality and some urgency about carrying out the public's business.
The last time Congress passed a budget and its accompanying appropriations bills on time was 1997, the year that by no accident led to four years of balanced budgets, a happy state of affairs that lasted until President George W. Bush decided the surpluses generated could be better spent on tax cuts and invading Iraq.
We've been in the red ever since, and the budget process is a mess. Congress' inability to pass the necessary funding bills that make up the budget caused the government shutdown when the new fiscal year began Oct. 1.
The usual recourse is to pass a series of continuing resolutions -- "CRs," in congressional parlance. These temporary spending measures buy time for Congress to come up with something more permanent.
A two-year budget seems an impossibility given the impasse that led to a partial shutdown of the government. But it's worth serious consideration once the present crisis has subsided. Lawmakers have to find a better way to get the bills paid that muddling through year after year.