Over the course of the twentieth century, Congress passed key laws that shaped the budgeting process into what it is today, and formed the federal agencies - including the Office of Management and Budget , the Government Accountability Office , and the Congressional Budget Office - that provide oversight and research crucial to creating the budget. Congress creates a new budget for our country every year.
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This annual congressional budget process is also called the appropriations process. Appropriations bills specify how much money will go to different government agencies and programs. In addition to these funding bills, Congress must pass legislation that provides the federal government the legal authority to actually spend the money. Authorizations often cover multiple years, so authorizing legislation does not need to pass Congress every year the way appropriations bills do.
When a multi-year authorization expires, Congress often passes a reauthorization to continue the programs in question.
Authorizations also serve another purpose. There are some types of spending that are not subject to the appropriations process.
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Such spending is called direct or mandatory spending , and authorizations provide the legal authority for this mandatory spending. The president sends a budget request to Congress each February for the coming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. To create his or her request, the President and the Office of Management and Budget solicit and accept budget requests from federal agencies, outlining what programs need more funding, what could be cut, and what new priorities each agency would like to fund.
The president's budget request is just a proposal. Congress then passes its own appropriations bills; only after the president signs these bills in step five does the country have a budget for the new fiscal year. After the president submits his or her budget request, the House Committee on the Budget and the Senate Committee on the Budget each write and vote on their own budget resolutions.
A budget resolution is not a binding document, but it provides a framework for Congress for making budget decisions about spending and taxes. It sets overall annual spending limits for federal agencies, but does not set specific spending amounts for particular programs. After the House and Senate pass their budget resolutions, some members from each come together in a joint conference to iron out differences between the two versions, and the resulting reconciled version is then voted on again by each chamber.
The Appropriations Committees in both the House and the Senate are responsible for determining the precise levels of budget authority , or allowed spending, for all discretionary programs. The Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate are broken down into smaller appropriations subcommittees. Subcommittees cover different areas of the federal government: for example, there is a subcommittee for defense spending, and another one for energy and water. Each subcommittee conducts hearings in which they pose questions to leaders of the relevant federal agencies about each agency's requested budget.
Based on all of this information, the chair of each subcommittee writes a first draft of the subcommittee's appropriations bill , abiding by the spending limits set out in the budget resolution. All subcommittee members then consider, amend, and finally vote on the bill. Once it has passed the subcommittee, the bill goes to the full Appropriations Committee. The full committee reviews it, and then sends it to the full House or Senate.
The full House and Senate then debate and vote on appropriations bills from each of the 12 subcommittees. After both the House and Senate pass their versions of each appropriations bill , a conference committee meets to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions. After the conference committee produces a reconciled version of the bill, the House and Senate vote again, but this time on a bill that is identical in both chambers.
The expiration date in the final CR for the next three fiscal years FYFY and FY, however, was set in the following session of Congress on a date occurring between January 10 and February For the remaining fiscal years, the final CRs were enacted during the next session of Congress. Table 3. Duration in days is measured, in the case of the first CR for a fiscal year, from the first day of the year October 1. For example, a CR enacted on September 30 that provided funding through October 12 would be measured as having aday duration.
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For subsequent CRs for a fiscal year, duration in days is measured from the day after the expiration of the preceding CR. The final expiration date is the date the CR expired. In some of these instances, the CR had previously been superseded by the enactment of the remaining regular appropriations acts for that fiscal year. For example, in FY, the expiration date of P. However, final regular appropriations were enacted the previous day in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, P. A total of four CRs were enacted for FY This count includes two CRs that provided funding for only specific programs and activities during the FY funding gap.
The funding provided by both of these CRs was terminated on October 17, , through the enactment of at third CR, P. Section of P. To preserve counting consistency, the FY duration of days for the purposes of this table and Figure 1 begins on October 1 and ends on January 18, As the figure shows, there is no significant correlation between these two variables. The largest number of CRs enacted for a single fiscal year during this period—21 for FY—covered a period lasting 82 days at an average duration of about four days per act.
The smallest number enacted—two each for FY, FY, and FY—covered days, 79 days, and days, respectively. Figure 1 also shows considerable mix in the use of shorter-term and longer-term CRs for a single fiscal year. For example, for FY, 21 CRs covered the first 82 days of the fiscal year. The first 25 days were covered by a series of four CRs lasting between five and eight days each. The next 10 days, a period of intense legislative negotiations leading up to the national elections on November 7, , were covered by a series of 10 one-day CRs.
The next 31 days were covered by two CRs, the first lasting 10 days and the second lasting 21 days. The first of these two CRs was enacted into law on November 4, the Saturday before the election, and extended through November 14, the second day of a lame-duck session. The second CR was enacted into law on November 15 and expired on December 5, which was 10 days before the lame-duck session ended. The remaining five CRs, which ranged in duration from one to six days, covered the remainder of the lame-duck session and several days beyond as the final appropriations measures passed by Congress were being processed for the President's approval.
As indicated previously, this represents the period after the start of the federal fiscal year was moved from July 1 to October 1 by the Congressional Budget Act. Figure 1. Notes: Each segment of a bar for a fiscal year represents the duration in days of one CR. The left-most segment represents the first CR, effective beginning on October 1 the start of the fiscal year.
In the case of the initial CR for a fiscal year, duration in days is measured from the first day of the year through the expiration date. Please see the notes to Table 3 in this report for a further explanation of the methodology for this figure.
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Full-year CRs have been used to provide annual discretionary spending on a number of occasions. Prior to the full implementation of the Congressional Budget Act in FY, full-year CRs were used occasionally, particularly in the s. Three years later, another full-year CR was enacted for FY Table 4 identifies the 15 full-year CRs enacted for the period since FY Nine of the 15 full-year CRs during this period were enacted in the first quarter of the fiscal year—three in October, two in November, and four in December.
The six remaining measures, however, were enacted during the following session between February 15 and June 5. The full-year CRs enacted during this period also varied in terms of length and the form of funding provided. Full-year CRs prior to FY were relatively short measures, ranging in length from one to four pages in the Statutes-at-Large. Beginning with FY and extending through FY, however, the measures became much lengthier, ranging from 19 to pages.
The greater page length of full-year CRs enacted for the period covering FYFY may be explained by two factors. First, full-year CRs enacted prior to FY generally established funding levels by formulaic reference. Beginning with FY, however, Congress began to incorporate the full text of some or all of the covered regular appropriations acts, thereby increasing its length considerably. None of the full-year CRs enacted between and used formulaic funding provisions. Secondly, the number of regular appropriations acts covered by full-year CRs increased significantly during the FYFY period.
For the period covering FYFY, the number of regular appropriations acts covered by CRs for the full fiscal year ranged from one to six averaging about three. Beginning with FY and extending through FY, the number of covered acts ranged from five to 13, averaging about The next two full-year CRs, for FY and FY, returned to the earlier practice of using formulaic references and anomalies to establish funding levels.
Both CRs provided funding only through this means. The two most recent full-year CRs, for FY and FY, in some respects were a hybrid of the earlier and recent approaches. The FY full-year CR provided funding for 11 bills through formulaic provisions and anomalies. It also carried the full text of one regular appropriations bill in a separate division of the act the FY Department of Defense Appropriations Act. In addition, Division F was characterized as providing continuing appropriations for the remaining seven regular appropriations bills through formulaic provisions and anomalies.
Unlike previous years, the formula for providing continuing appropriations was based on the amount provided in FY rather than a rate. Table 4.
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This full-year continuing appropriations for the District of Columbia provided by this act were later superseded by a standalone regular appropriations act P. Some of the appropriations acts covered by this full-year CR were later superseded by standalone regular appropriations acts for Interior and Related Agencies P. Title IV extended through the end of the fiscal year the expiration of P. This full-year CR extended through the end of the fiscal year the expiration date of P. Some of the appropriations acts covered by this full-year CR were later superseded by standalone regular appropriations acts for the Department of Defense P.
The full-year continuing appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies that were provided by this act were later superseded by a standalone regular appropriations act P. Table 5. Duration in days is measured, in the case of the initial CR for a fiscal year, from the first day of the year October 1 through the expiration date. In several instances, as appropriate, the number of days reflects an extra day in a leap year every fourth year beginning with calendar year Several CRs provided continuing appropriations for mixed periods of time.
For example, three CRs— P. See also the discussion of actions for FY under footnote j. In these instances, the "Duration in Days" column reflects the time period that applied to the greatest number of activities funded by the measure. Title IV 95 Stat. Title I 98 Stat. Title I Stat. Section c of provided that, as an exception to the general expiration date, continuing appropriations for the Foreign Operation Appropriations Act would expire on March 31, a duration of days. A total of 13 CRs were enacted for FY and one was vetoed.
Two funding gaps occurred, the first in mid-November and the second from mid-December until early January The CRs for this year may be divided into two categories depending on whether their coverage was generally comprehensive or partial. Nine of the CRs enacted for FY generally provided short-term funding for all activities under the regular appropriations acts that had not yet been enacted, while the other four provided funding only for selected activities within certain acts.
The four acts in the latter category included the following: 1 P. In addition, other selected activities were funded through the remainder of the fiscal year P. Action on the regular appropriations acts for FY was concluded with the enactment of P. Three of the CRs had mixed periods of duration. The duration shown in the table was determined as follows: 1 Most of the funding provided in P. In the case of P. Section of the act made the funding effective as of December 16, However, the funding provided by both of these CRs was terminated on October 17, , through the enactment of a third CR, P.
For the purposes of this table, the duration in days for the first two CRs is considered to have ended on October 17, The third CR is considered to have begun on October 1, , and expired on January 15, A total of five CRs were enacted for FY Section of the fourth CR provided that the time covered by previous CRs was to have included the funding lapse.
For the purposes of this table, the duration in days is considered consecutive to the start of the fiscal year. In addition to providing continuing appropriations through February 15, , Section of this CR provided that continuing appropriations were considered to cover the funding lapse from December 22, , to January 25, These prohibitions are contained in the Antideficiency Act 31 U. Exceptions are made under the act, including for activities involving "the safety of human life or the protection of property" 31 U.
The use of CRs had also been common prior to the fiscal year beginning on October 1. For example, in each of the 23 years prior to FY i. See Congressional Record , vol. The information in this report is inclusive of all appropriations acts entitled or otherwise designated as providing CRs. In some instances, such acts might alternatively be characterized by some observers as "omnibus appropriations acts. Appropriations bills provide agencies with budget authority , which is defined as authority provided by federal law to enter into contracts or other financial obligations that will result in immediate or future expenditures or outlays involving federal government funds.
For explanations of these terms, see GAO, Glossary , pp. For the purposes of this report, the terms "budget authority" and "funding" are used interchangeably. See, for example, Section of P. Two or more regular appropriations bills are sometimes packaged into a single or "omnibus" legislative vehicle prior to enactment.
For further information, see Table 2 and Table 5 in this report. Regular appropriations bills contain a series of unnumbered paragraphs with headings, generally reflecting a unique budget "account. II, 3 rd ed. From a functional perspective, CRs that do not include any formulaic provisions but instead provide appropriations only by using the full text of acts including by cross-reference are sometimes regarded as omnibus appropriations acts rather than CRs, even if they are entitled an act "making continuing appropriations" or "making further continuing appropriations.
The formulaic funding for many of the accounts funded in Division B was modified by anomalies. For a discussion of this practice, see the "Anomalies" section of this report. Although appropriations bills most commonly provide budget authority that is available for obligation for only one fiscal year, budget authority for an activity may be provided for more than one year "multiyear" or indefinitely "no-year". In instances where funds provided in previous years are still available for the purpose of initiating a new project or activity, such funds may generally be used for this purpose, even though funds for the current fiscal year are provided by a CR.
GAO, Glossary , p. Constitution grants Congress the "power of the purse" by prohibiting expenditures "but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law. When a CR provides funds for activities in the prior year's regular appropriations acts, anomalies reflect the account structure in such acts. House Rule XXI, clause 2, prohibits such language in general appropriations measures and applicable amendments. CRs, however, are not considered to be general appropriations bills. W[illia]m Holmes Brown, Charles W.
Johnson, and John V. Washington: GPO, , ch. FY was the most recent fiscal year that all regular appropriations bills were completed by the start of the fiscal year. LVI, pp. The additional quarter of funding was necessary to facilitate the change in the start of the federal government fiscal year from July 1 to October 1. Topic Areas About Donate. Continuing Resolutions: Overview of Components and Practices August 6, — April 19, R The program activities of most federal agencies are generally funded on an annual basis through the enactment of regular appropriations acts.
Download PDF. Download EPUB. Tables Table 1. Summary The program activities of most federal agencies are generally funded on an annual basis through the enactment of regular appropriations acts. Introduction The program activities of most federal agencies are generally funded on an annual basis through the enactment of 12 regular appropriations acts. Author Contact Information Kate P.
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McClanahan, Coordinator, Analyst on the Appropriations Process [email address scrubbed] , [phone number scrubbed]. James V. Saturno, Specialist on Congress and the Legislative Process [email address scrubbed] , [phone number scrubbed]. Megan S. Lynch, Specialist on Congress and the Legislative Process [email address scrubbed] , [phone number scrubbed]. Bill Heniff Jr. Justin Murray, Senior Research Librarian [email address scrubbed] , [phone number scrubbed]. Footnotes 1. Senate Rule XVI, paragraphs
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