The Long Path to a Federal Budget

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					                                                                                      The Long Path to a Federal Budget
President’s budget proposal for a given fiscal year sets in motion the lengthy process on Capitol Hill in which the two chambers hash out how much will be spent on the various functions of the federal
government. While budget laws contain formal deadlines, the process follows a loose calendar where slippage and overlap frequently occur.
APPROXIMATE TIMELINE

         February                           March                             April                             May               June through September


                                                                                                         House authorizing            House authorizing                        House votes on
                                                                                                         committees report            committees’                              reconciliation
                                                                                                         changes in law to            recommendations
                                                                                                         comply with budget           submitted to
                                                                                                         resolution                   Budget Committee
                House
                Budget
                Committee                                                                                                                                                                                                                        House votes
                formulates                    House                              House                   House                        House votes on                           House votes on                                                    on reconciliation
                budget                        floor                              floor                   Appropriations               11 separate                              conference report
                resolution                    votes                              votes                   Committee reports            appropriations bills
                                                                                                         spending measures to
                                                                                                         comply with budget
                                                                                                         resolution


         President                            Budget                                                                                         Conference
          submits                             conference                         Concurrent                                                  committees                                       President           Budget                       President
          budget                              committee                          budget                                                      meet and                                          signs or           reconciliation                signs or
        proposal to                           reports out the                    resolution                                                  develop                                            vetoes            conference                     vetoes
         Congress                             concurrent                         Reached                                                     conference                                     appropriations        committee                  reconciliation
                                              resolution on                                                                                  reports                                             bills                                             bill
                                              the budget


                Senate                                                                                   Senate
                Budget                                                                                   Appropriations
                Committee                     Senate                             Senate                  Committee reports            Senate votes
                formulates                    floor                              floor                   spending measures            on 12 separate
                budget                        votes                              votes                   to comply with               appropriations bills                     Senate votes on
                resolution                                                                               budget resolution                                                     conference report                                                 Senate votes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 on reconciliation


                                                                                                         Senate authorizing           Senate authorizing
                                                                                                         committees report            committees’
                                                                                                         changes in law to            recommendations                          Senate votes on
                                                                                                         comply with budget           submitted to                             reconciliation
                                                                                                         resolution                   Budget Committee




The president’s budget is not    The House and Senate             The two chambers arrive at a                                    Appropriations bills cover the    Another portion of the funds                                      If any of the appropriations
binding and is considered        budget committees develop        concurrent budget resolution,                                   discretionary portion of the      goes to authorizing                                               bills aren’t signed by Oct. 1,
the administration’s proposal    their own versions of a budget   which is not formally a law                                     budget and do not affect          committees for entitlements                                       the start of the new fiscal
and request. With it come        resolution. The leading          and does not require the                                        mandated benefit programs         and other mandatory                                               year, Congress may pass a
volumes of information,          budget committee members         president’s signature.                                          such as Social Security and       spending. To change these                                         continuing resolution to fill the
including budget documents       from both chambers meet to       However, the House and                                          Medicare. Two or more of the      amounts, laws must be                                             gap. Spending is usually
and justifications from each     develop a consensus              Senate have enforcement                                         appropriations measures can       rewritten and voted on in                                         limited to current levels. If
agency, that help Congress       agreement called a               procedures to ensure                                            be lumped into a single           reconciliation legislation,                                       Congress fails to pass the
complete its own budget. The     conference report.               directives are met. The                                         omnibus appropriations bill,      which requires the president’s                                    resolution or the president
president’s budget generally                                      budget resolution sets in                                       which happens when law            signature to become law.                                          vetoes it, unfunded
is submitted by the first                                         motion spending and tax                                         makers cannot finish before                                                                         nonessential activities in
Monday in February.                                               legislation that, when                                          the new fiscal year. All of the                                                                     government are shut down
                                                                  enacted, has the force of law.                                  bills must be signed by the                                                                         until appropriations for them
                                                                                                                                  president to become law.                                                                            are enacted.

GLOSSARY

Budget resolution: An agreement that sets general                 Reconciliation: The process by which authorizing              Entitlements: Programs for which the government is legally           Discretionary spending: In this category, Congress has the
revenue, spending and other budgetary targets but is not          committees change laws affecting taxes, entitlements and      required to make payments to eligible recipients. Laws define        discretion each year to determine how much will be devoted to
formally a law.                                                   other mandatory spending to meet the budget resolution.       eligibility and set the benefit or payment rules.                    continuing current programs or funding new ones.



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