Government affairs

Stages of the budget process

1. The president’s budget submission: The president submits a comprehensive budget request to Congress in early February, outlining the administration’s policy and funding priorities and the economic outlook for the coming fiscal year. This budget, which estimates spending, revenue and borrowing levels, is compiled by the Office of Management and Budget from input by the various federal agencies, with funding broken down into 20 budget function categories.

2. Adoption of the budget resolution: House and Senate committees hold hearings on the president’s budget. The committees then report a concurrent budget resolution that sets each committee’s allocation of spending authority for the next fiscal year and aggregate spending and revenue levels for five years. The budget resolution also establishes aggregate totals with respect to revenues and spending for the entire federal budget. This resolution, once adopted, is not law, as it is not signed by the president. The allocations, enforceable through points of order, establish the framework to consider spending and revenue bills on the House and Senate floors.

3. Passage of appropriations bills: In May, the House begins consideration of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the following fiscal year, based on the discretionary spending allocation in the budget resolution. As these bills move through hearings, markups, floor consideration and conferences, they are constrained by the levels and allocations in the budget resolution, by the enforcement of the Budget Act, and by House and Senate rules.

4. Consideration of reconciliation legislation: If the spending and revenue levels in the budget resolutions require changes in existing law, the resolutions would contain instructions to their respective committees to report legislation containing such statutory changes. Whether for tax increases or decreases, deficit reduction, mandatory spending increases or decreases, or adjustments in the public debt limit, this process has been used to focus many agents on one goal, often resulting in a large bill.

5. Consideration of authorization legislation: Congress considers numerous measures authorizing the appropriation of funds on myriad programs each fiscal year. This decision-making is constrained by the Budget Act and by House and Senate rules.


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