The formal federal spending process consists of two sequential steps: authorization and appropriation.
While the power over appropriations is granted to Congress by the U.S. Constitution, the authorization-appropriation process is derived from House and Senate rules. The formal process consists of two
sequential steps: (1) enactment of an authoriz ation measure that may create or continue an agency, program, or activity as well as authorize the subsequent enactment of appropriations; and
(2) enactment of appropriations to provide funds for the authorized agency, program, or activity.
These duties are carried out by division of labor. The Legislative Committees -- that is, most standing committees—have authorizing responsibilities, while the Appropriations Committees have jurisdiction over appropriations measures.
Agencies and programs funded through the annual appropriations process, referred to as discretionary spending, generally follow this two-step process. Not all federal agencies and programs, however, are funded through this authorization-appropriations process. Funding for some agencies and programs is provided by the authorizing legislation, bypassing this two-step process. Such spending, referred to as direct (or mandatory) spending , currently constitutes about 55% of all federal spending. Some direct spending, mostly entitlement programs, is funded by permanent appropriations in the authorizing law. Other direct spending (referred to as appropriated entitlements), such as Medicaid, is funded in appropriations acts, but the amount appropriated is controlled by the existing authorizing statute.
For more information about the authorization-appropriations process, see The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction and Overview of the Authorization-Appropriations Process from the Congressional Research Service.
Types of Approrpriation Measures
There are three types of appropriations measures. Regular appropriations bills provide most of the funding that is provided in all appropriations measures for a fiscal year and must be enacted by October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. If regular bills are not enacted by the beginning of the new fiscal year, Congress adopts continuing resolutions to continue funding, generally until regular bills are enacted. Supplemental appropriations bills provide additional appropriations to become available during a fiscal year.
Congress annually considers several appropriations measures, which provide discretionary funding for numerous activities—for example, national defense, education, and homeland security—as well as general government operations. Appropriations measures are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Department of Justice spending bills are written by the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
Funding for DOJ programs are included in the Science-State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations bill in the House and the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill in the Senate.
Traditionally, the House of Representatives initiated consideration of regular appropriations measures, and the Senate subsequently considered and amended the House-passed bills. More recently, the Senate appropriations subcommittees and committee have sometimes not waited for the House bills; instead they have reported original Senate bills. Under this more recent approach, the House and Senate appropriations committees and their subcommittees have often considered the regular bills simultaneously.
The House Appropriations Committee reports the 12 regular appropriations bills separately to the full House. The committee generally begins reporting the bills in May or June, typically completing consideration prior to the annual August recess. Generally, the full House starts floor consideration of the regular appropriations bills in May or June as well and usually concludes such consideration by August. The programs and activities in the regular bills that are not considered or do not pass are typically funded in an omnibus.
The Senate Appropriations Committee typically begins reporting the bills in June and generally completes committee consideration by the August recess. The Senate typically begins floor consideration of the bills beginning in June or July and continuing through the fall. As in the House, if the Senate does not separately consider some of the regularbills, the programs and activities in such measures are typically funded in an omnibus appropriations bill. During the fall and winter, the appropriations committees are usually heavily involved in negotiations to resolve differences between the versions of appropriations bills passed by their respective chambers. Relatively little (if any) time is left before the fiscal year begins to resolve what may be wide disparities between the House and Senate, to say nothing of those between Congress and the President. As a result, Congress is usually faced with the need to enact one or more temporary continuing resolutions pending the final disposition of the regular appropriations bills.
In some recent instances, such as FY2010 and FY2012, all of the regular bills (either separately or combined in omnibus bills) became law by the end of the calendar year. In others, such as FY2009 and FY2014, the bills became law early in the next calendar year. In FY2011 and FY2013, a majority of the regular appropriations bills were not enacted; the budget authority for programs that would be normally funded in these bills was provided through continuing resolutions through the end of the fiscal year.
Working with Congress
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