Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The President Has Proposed a Budget; Here's What's Next

Photo Credit: House Appropriations Committee
The February 2 release of the Obama administration's Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget proposal (which can be found at this White House OMB page) jump-starts a series of House and Senate hearings on the proposal, and (under a legislative term of art known as "regular order") would ultimately result in a series of spending bills that allocate funds for the fiscal year across the agencies of the Federal government.  Here is an overview of what might happen, should the regular order of appropriations be followed (something that has not happened in recent memory).

It is good to remember that the Administration's budget proposal is just that - a proposal. In recent years nothing closely resembling the President's budget request has made its way through Congress and been reflected in appropriation measures that were finally passed.

Coincident with the budget proposal hearings mentioned above, the House Budget Committee would typically prepare and release its FY 2016 budget plan, which will form the basis for a subsequent House Budget Resolution.  The Committee's spending plan and resulting Budget Resolution will effectively be a Republican response to the President’s proposed budget. The House-passed Budget Resolution is sent on to the Senate for its consideration.

Assuming the Senate and House agree on and pass a common Budget Resolution, it will be used, in part, to set spending ceilings for bills to be developed in the House and Senate to fund the government during the 2016 fiscal year.  Following approval of the Budget Resolution (assuming it is, in fact, approved), Appropriations Committees in both the Senate and House would develop legislation to allocate funds.  The bills would ostensibly fall line with Fiscal Year 2016 spending ceilings set by the Budget Resolution, and would ideally be passed and signed into law before the FY 2015 spending authority lapses at midnight on September 30. These so-called "regular appropriations bills" provide funding for the upcoming fiscal year. If regular bills are not enacted by the beginning of the new fiscal year, Congress would need to adopt one or more continuing resolutions to provide stop-gap funding until regular bills are enacted.

There are twelve appropriation subcommittees in each chamber, and each traditionally would be tasked with drafting legislation to allocate funds to government agencies within their respective jurisdictions. The appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over funding for Federal departments and agencies that manage key Mississippi River Basin programs, and links to their web pages are: 
  • Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (USDA, except the U.S. Forest Service) - House SiteSenate Site
  • Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior-Bureau of Reclamation) - House SiteSenate Site
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (USEPA; U.S. Forest Service; Department of the Interior, except Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Project) - House SiteSenate Site
An informative, November 2014, Congressional Research Service introduction to the Congressional budget and appropriations process can be read online or downloaded here (PDF file).  Once appropriations activities start, the latest news on appropriations efforts in Congress can be tracked on the respective House and Senate Appropriations Committee’s web pages, or on this Congress.gov web page.

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