The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Congress annually considers several appropriations measures, which provide funding for
numerous activities, for example, national defense, education, and homeland security, as well as
general government operations. Congress has developed certain rules and practices for the
consideration of appropriations measures, referred to as the congressional appropriations process.
Appropriations measures are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees. These measures provide only about 40% of total federal spending for a fiscal year.
The House and Senate legislative committees control the rest.
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 of each year. If regular bills are not enacted by the deadline, Congress adopts
continuing resolutions to continue funding generally until regular bills are enacted. Supplemental
appropriations bills provide additional appropriations and are typically considered during a fiscal
Each year Congress considers a budget resolution that, in part, sets spending ceilings for the
upcoming fiscal year. Both the House and Senate have established parliamentary rules that may
be used to enforce certain spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution during
consideration of appropriations measures in the House and Senate, respectively.
Congress has also established an authorization-appropriation process that provides for two
separate types of measures—authorization bills and appropriation bills. These measures perform
different functions and are to be considered in sequence. First, authorization bills establish,
continue, or modify agencies or programs. Second, appropriations measures may provide funding
for the agencies and programs previously authorized.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Annual Appropriations Cycle..........................................................................................................2
President Submits Budget.........................................................................................................2
Congress Adopts Budget Resolution.........................................................................................3
Timetable for Consideration of Appropriations Measures........................................................5
Work of the Appropriations Committees...................................................................................5
House and Senate Floor Action.................................................................................................6
House .................................................................................................................................. 6
Senate ......................................................................................................................... ......... 7
House and Senate Conference Action.......................................................................................8
Types of Appropriations Measures..................................................................................................9
Regular Appropriations Bills.....................................................................................................9
Supplemental Appropriations Measures..................................................................................13
Spending Ceilings for Appropriations Measures...........................................................................15
Alloca ti ons .................................................................................................................... .......... 15
Enforcement ............................................................................................................................ 18
House ................................................................................................................................ 18
Senate ......................................................................................................................... ....... 20
Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriation Measures...............................................22
Rescis si ons .................................................................................................................... ................ 24
Table 1. Number of Regular Appropriations Bills Packaged in Omnibus (or Minibus)
Table 2. Regular Appropriations Bills Completed by Deadline and Number of Continuing
Table 3. House Committee on Appropriations’ 302(a) Allocations for FY2008...........................15
Table 4. Initial House Appropriations Committee’s 302(b) Allocations for FY2008....................17
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................25
Congress annually considers several appropriations measures, which provide funding for
numerous activities, such as national defense, education, and homeland security, as well as
general government operations. These measures are considered by Congress under certain rules
and practices, referred to as the congressional appropriations process. This report discusses the
following aspects of this process:
• the annual appropriations cycle;
• types of appropriations measures;
• spending ceilings for appropriations associated with the annual budget resolution;
• the relationship between authorization and appropriation measures.
When considering appropriations measures, Congress is exercising the power granted to it under
the Constitution, which states, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence 1
of Appropriations made by Law.” The power to appropriate is a legislative power. Congress has
enforced its prerogatives through certain laws. The so-called Antideficiency Act, for example,
strengthened the application of this section by, in part, explicitly prohibiting federal government
employees and officers from making contracts or other obligations in advance of or in excess of
an appropriation, unless authorized by law; and providing administrative and criminal sanctions 2
for those who violate the act. Under law, public funds, furthermore, may only be used for 3
purpose(s) for which Congress appropriated the funds.
The President has an important role in the appropriations process by virtue of his constitutional
power to approve or veto entire measures, which Congress can only override by two-thirds vote
of both chambers. He also has influence, in part, because of various duties imposed by statute,
such as submitting an annual budget to Congress.
The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations have jurisdiction over the annual
appropriations measures. Each committee has 12 subcommittees and each subcommittee has
jurisdiction over one annual, regular appropriations bill that provides funding for departments and 4
agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
The jurisdictions of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are generally parallel.
That is, each House appropriations subcommittee is paired with a Senate appropriations 5
subcommittee and the two subcommittees’ jurisdictions are generally identical. As currently 6
organized, there are 12 subcommittees:
1 U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9.
2 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341(a)-1342 and 1349-1350.
3 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a).
4 The House has an additional subcommittee, Select Intelligence Oversight Panel (select panel). It, however, does not
have jurisdiction over providing spending. The select panel, instead, makes annual intelligence funding
recommendations to the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over legislation to
provide intelligence spending.
5 For departments and agencies under the jurisdiction of each subcommittee, see CRS Report WA00004, Locate an
• Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related
• Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (Commerce, Justice, and
• Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies (Energy and Water
• Financial Services and General Government;
• Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security);
• Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Interior and Environment);
• Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related
Agencies (Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education);
• Legislative Branch;
• Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (Military
Construction and Veterans Affairs);
• State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (State and Foreign Operations);
• Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and
Related Agencies (Transportation and Housing and Urban Development).
The President initiates the annual budget cycle when he submits his annual budget for the 7
upcoming fiscal year to Congress. He is required to submit his annual budget on or before the 8
first Monday in February. Congress has, however, provided deadline extensions; both statutorily 9
and, sometimes, informally.
Agency or Program within Appropriations Bills: 110th Congress, by Mary Frances Bley; U.S. Congress, House thst
Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee Jurisdiction, Jacket Number 32-282, 110 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: th
GPO, 2007); and U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee Jurisdiction, S. Prt. 110-11, 110 st
Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2007).
6 For additional information, see CRS Report RL31572, Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes
from 1920-2007, by James V. Saturno.
7 Congress generally provides spending for fiscal years, in contrast to calendar years. Federal government fiscal years
begin on October 1 and end the following September 30. FY2009 began on October 1, 2008.
8 31 U.S.C. § 1105(a).
9 For information on deadline extensions in presidential transition years, see CRS Report RS20752, Submission of the
President’s Budget in Transition Years, by Robert Keith.
The President recommends spending levels for various programs and agencies of the federal
government in the form of budget authority (or BA). Such authority does not represent cash
provided to, or reserved for, agencies. Instead, the term refers to 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. Most appropriations are a form of
budget authority that also provide legal authority to make the subsequent payments from the
An FY2008 appropriations act, for example, provided $222 million in new budget authority for
FY2008 to the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) for construction,
improvement, repair, and replacement of facilities. That is, the act gave NPS legal authority to
sign contracts to construct and repair the facilities. The agency could not commit the government
to pay more than $222 million. The outlays occur when government payments are made to
complete the tasks.
While budget authority must generally be obligated in the fiscal year in which the funds were
made available, outlays may occur over time. In the case of the NPS construction projects, for
example, the outlays may occur over several years as various stages of the project are completed.
In this example, the $222 million appropriation could be spent over four fiscal years:
• FY2008, $22 million;
• FY2009, $55 million;
• FY2010, $55 million; and
• FY2011, $90 million.
The amount of outlays in a fiscal year may vary among activities funded because the length of
time to complete the activities differs. Outlays to purchase office supplies may occur in the year
the budget authority is made available, while outlays for construction projects may take longer.
As Congress considers appropriations measures providing new budget authority for a particular
fiscal year, discussions on the resulting outlays involve estimates based on historical trends. Data
on the actual outlays for a fiscal year are not available until the fiscal year has ended.
After the President submits his budget to Congress, each agency generally provides additional
detailed justification materials to the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees with
jurisdiction over its funding.
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (Congressional Budget Act)10 11
requires Congress to adopt an annual budget resolution. The budget resolution is
Congress’s response to the President’s budget. The budget resolution must cover at least five
fiscal years: the upcoming fiscal year plus the four subsequent fiscal years.
10 2 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.
11 Budget resolutions are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Committees on the Budget.
The budget resolution, in part, sets total new budget authority and outlay levels for each fiscal
year covered by the resolution. It also allocates federal spending among generally 20 functional
categories (such as national defense, agriculture, and transportation) and sets similar levels for
Within each chamber, the total new budget authority and outlays for each fiscal year are also
allocated among committees with jurisdiction over spending, thereby setting spending ceilings for 12
each committee (see “Allocations” section below). The House and Senate Committees on
Appropriations receive ceilings only for the upcoming fiscal year, because appropriations
measures are annual. Once the appropriations committees receive their spending ceilings, they
separately subdivide the amount among their respective subcommittees, providing spending 13
ceilings for each subcommittee.
The budget resolution is never sent to the President, nor does it become law. It does not provide
budget authority or raise or lower revenues; instead, it is a guide for the House and Senate as they
consider various budget-related bills, including appropriations and tax measures. Both the House
and Senate have established parliamentary rules to enforce some of these spending ceilings when 14
appropriations measures are considered on the House or Senate floor, respectively.
The Congressional Budget Act provides an April 15 deadline for congressional adoption of the
budget resolution. During the past 33 fiscal years Congress has considered budget resolutions
(FY1976-FY2008), however, Congress frequently has not met this deadline, and in four of those 15
years (FY1999, FY2003, FY2005, and FY2007), Congress did not adopt a budget resolution.
There is no penalty if the budget resolution is not completed or is tardy. Under the Congressional
Budget Act, however, certain enforceable spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution
are not established until the budget resolution is completed. The act also prohibits both House and
Senate floor consideration of appropriations measures for the upcoming fiscal year until they
complete the budget resolution; and, in the Senate, until the Senate Appropriations Committee 16
receive their spending ceilings. The House, however, may consider most appropriations 17
measures after May 15, even if the budget resolution is not in place; and the Senate may adopt a
motion to waive this rule by a majority vote.
If Congress delays completion of the annual budget resolution (or does not complete the
resolution), each chamber may adopt a deeming resolution to address these procedural 18
12 The committee ceilings are usually provided in the joint explanatory statement that accompanies the conference
report to the budget resolution.
13 See “Allocations” below.
14 For more details, see “Spending Ceilings for Appropriations Measures” below.
15 For more information on budget resolutions, see CRS Report RL30297, Congressional Budget Resolutions: Selected
Statistics and Information Guide, by Bill Heniff Jr. and Justin Murray.
16 2 U.S.C. § 634 (or Congressional Budget Act, section 303); and H.Res. 6, section 511(a)(2) (110th Cong.).
17 This exception applies to regular appropriations bills and supplemental appropriations measures that provide funding
for more than one agency or purpose (for more information, see “Types of Appropriations Measures” below).
18 For information on deeming resolutions, see “Allocations” section below and CRS Report RL31443, The “Deeming
Resolution”: A Budget Enforcement Tool, by Robert Keith.
Traditionally, the House of Representatives initiated consideration of regular appropriations
measures, and the Senate subsequently considered and amended the House-passed bills. Recently,
the Senate appropriations subcommittees and committee have sometimes not waited for the
House bills, instead they have reported original Senate bills. Under this non-traditional approach,
both House and Senate appropriations committees and their subcommittees have often considered
the regular bills simultaneously.
The House Committee on Appropriations reports the 12 regular appropriations bills separately to 19
the full House. The committee typically begins reporting the bills in May or June, completing
their consideration of all (or almost all) of them by the annual August recess. Generally, the full
House starts consideration of the regular appropriations bills in May or June as well, passing most
of those bills by the August recess. For three of the last seven fiscal years (FY2002-FY2008) the
House did not pass all the regular bills separately. The regular bills that do not pass are typically 20
funded in an omnibus appropriations bill.
In the Senate, the Senate Appropriations Committee typically begins reporting the bills in June
and generally completes reporting them in September. The Senate typically starts passing the bills
in June or July and continues through the fall. For five of the last seven fiscal years, the Senate
also did not pass all of the bills separately.
During the fall and winter, the appropriations committees are usually heavily involved in
conferences 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 21
After the President submits his budget, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees hold
hearings on the segments of the budget under their jurisdiction. They focus on the details of the
agencies’ justifications, primarily obtaining testimony from agency officials.
After the hearings have been completed, and the House and Senate appropriations committees 22
have generally received their spending ceilings, the subcommittees begin to mark up the regular
19 For almost 35 years (1971-2004), Congress generally considered 13 regular appropriations bills each year. As a
result of two reorganizations of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations in 2005 and, again, in 2007, the
total number of bills changed twice. Congress considered 11 regular bills for FY2006 and FY2007 and there have been
12 regular bills for FY2008 and FY2009. (For more information, CRS Report RL31572, Appropriations Subcommittee
Structure: History of Changes from 1920-2007, by James V. Saturno.)
20 See “Regular Appropriations Bills” below.
21 For a description of continuing resolutions, see “Continuing Resolutions” below.
22 The chair usually proposes a draft bill (the chair’s mark). The chair and other subcommittee members discuss
amendments to the draft and may agree to include some (referred to as marking up the bill). Regular appropriations
bills are not introduced prior to full committee markup. The bill is introduced when the House appropriations
committee reports the bill; a bill number is assigned at that time. House rules allow the House appropriations
bills under their jurisdiction and report them to their respective full committees. Both
appropriations committees consider each of their subcommittee’s recommendations separately.
The committees may adopt amendments to a subcommittee’s recommendations, and then report
the bill as amended to their respective floors for further action.
After the House or Senate appropriations committee reports an appropriations bill to the House or
Senate, respectively, the bill is brought to the floor. At this point, Representatives or Senators are
generally provided an opportunity to propose floor amendments to the bill.
Prior to floor consideration of a regular appropriations bill, the House generally considers a
special rule reported by the House Committee on Rules setting parameters for floor consideration 23
of the bill. If the House adopts the special rule, it usually considers the appropriations bill
The House considers the bill in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union (or 24
Committee of the Whole) of which all Representatives are members. A special rule on an
appropriations bill usually provides for one hour of general debate on the bill. The debate 25
includes opening statements by the chair and ranking minority member of the appropriations
subcommittee with jurisdiction over the regular bill, as well as other interested Representatives.
After the Committee of the Whole debates the bill, it considers amendments. A regular 26
appropriations bill is generally read for amendment, by paragraph. Amendments must meet a
variety of requirements:
• House standing rules and precedents generally that establish several
requirements, such as requiring amendments to be germane to the bill;
committee to originate a bill. In contrast, most House committees do not have such authority.
23 Because the regular appropriations bills must be completed in a timely fashion, House Rule XIII, clause 5, provides
that these appropriations bills are privileged. This allows the House Committee on Appropriations to make a motion to
bring a regular appropriations bill directly to the floor in contrast to asking the Rules Committee to report a special rule
providing for the measure’s consideration, as is necessary for most major bills.
In recent years, the House appropriations committee has usually used the special rule procedure, however. These
special rules typically include waivers of certain parliamentary rules regarding the consideration of appropriations bills
and certain provisions within them. Special rules may also be used for other purposes, such as restricting floor
24 House Rule XVIII, clause 3, requires that appropriations measures be considered in the Committee of the Whole
before the House votes on passage of the measures (see CRS Report 95-563, The Legislative Process on the House
Floor: An Introduction, by Christopher M. Davis; and CRS Report RL32200, Debate, Motions, and Other Actions in
the Committee of the Whole, by Bill Heniff Jr. and Elizabeth Rybicki.
25 A ranking minority member of a committee or subcommittee is the head of the minority party members of the
particular committee or subcommittee.
26 For more information, see CRS Report 98-995, The Amending Process in the House of Representatives, by
Christopher M. Davis.
• House standing rules and precedents that establish a separation between
legislation and appropriations (see “Relationship Between Authorization and
Appropriation Measures” below);
• funding limits imposed by the congressional budget process (see “Spending
Ceilings for Appropriations Measures” below); and
• provisions of a special rule or unanimous consent agreement providing for
consideration of the particular bill.
If an amendment violates any of these requirements, any Representative may raise a point of
order to that effect. If the presiding officer rules the amendment out of order, it cannot be 27
considered on the House floor. The special rule or unanimous consent agreement may waive the
requirements imposed by House rules or the budget process, thereby allowing the House to
consider the amendment.
During consideration of individual regular appropriations bills, the House sometimes sets
additional parameters, either by adopting a special rule or by unanimous consent. For example,
the House sometimes agrees to limit consideration to a specific list of amendments or to limit 28
debate on individual amendments by unanimous consent.
After the Committee of the Whole completes consideration of the measure, it rises and reports the
bill with any adopted amendments to the full House. The House then votes on the adopted
amendments and passage. After House passage, the bill is sent to the Senate.
The full Senate considers the bill as reported by its appropriations committee.29 The Senate does
not have a device like a special rule to set parameters for consideration of bills. Before taking up
the bill, however, or during its consideration, the Senate sometimes sets parameters by unanimous
When the bill is brought up on the floor, the chair and ranking minority member of the
appropriations subcommittee make opening statements on the contents of the bill as reported.
Committee and floor amendments to the reported bills must meet requirements under the Senate
standing rules and precedents (including the authorization-appropriations process) and
congressional budget process, as well as requirements agreed to by unanimous consent. The 30
specifics of the Senate and House requirements differ, including the waiver procedures.
27 Under unanimous consent agreements, the House agrees to the new parameters if no Representative objects.
28 In addition to special rules, in recent years House consideration of appropriations bills has been supplemented by
unanimous consent agreements. For more information, see CRS Report RS22711, Considering Regular Appropriations
Bills on the House Floor: Current Practice Regarding Comprehensive Unanimous Consent Agreements, by
Christopher M. Davis.
29 In cases in which the non-traditional practice is utilized, the Senate Committee on Appropriations typically reports an
original Senate bill and after the full Senate has completed action on it, the Senate waits for the House to send its bill to
the Senate and amends the House-passed bill with generally a substitute amendment that contains the text of the Senate
bill, as amended on the Senate floor.
30The Senate may waive these rules either by unanimous consent or, in some cases, by motion.
The Senate, in contrast to the House, does not consider floor amendments in the order of the bill.
Senators may propose amendments to any portion of the bill at any time unless the Senate agrees
to set limits.
Generally, members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees having jurisdiction
over a particular regular appropriations bill, and the chair and ranking minority members of the 31
full committees meet to negotiate over differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills.
Under House and Senate rules, the negotiators (called conferees or managers) are generally
required to remain within the scope of the differences between the positions of the two chambers, 32
and cannot add new matter. Their agreement must be within the range established by the House-
and Senate-passed versions. For example, if the House-passed bill appropriates $3 million for a
program and a separate Senate amendment provides $5 million, the conferees must reach an
agreement that is within the $3 million-$5 million range. In the Senate, the conference report
cannot add new directed spending provisions that were not in included in either the House- or
Senate-passed versions of the bill. The Senate rule against new matter applies to any provision in
the conference report, while the rule against new directed spending provisions is limited to
any item that consists of a specific provision containing a specific level of funding for any
specific account, specific program, specific project, or specific activity, when no specific
funding was provided for such specific account, specific program, specific project, or 33
specific activity in the measure originally committed to the conferees by either House.
These rules may be enforced during House and Senate consideration of the conference report.
The Senate typically passes the House bill with the Senate version attached as a single substitute
amendment. In such instances, the conferees must reach agreement on all points of difference
between the House and Senate versions before reporting the conference report in agreement to
both houses. When this occurs, the conferees propose a new conference substitute for the bill as a
whole. The conference report includes a joint explanatory statement (or managers’ statement)
explaining the new substitute. A conference report may not be amended in either chamber.
Usually, the House considers conference reports on appropriations measures first, because it
traditionally considers the measures first. Prior to consideration of the conference report, the
House typically adopts a special rule waiving any points of order against the conference report.
The first chamber to consider the conference report has the option of voting to recommit it to the
conference for further consideration, rejecting it, or adopting it.
After the first house adopts the conference report, the conference is automatically disbanded;
therefore, the second house has two options—adopt or reject the conference report. The Senate,
31 If the Senate and/or House does not pass a bill, informal negotiations typically take place on the basis of the reported
version of that chamber(s). For example, the provisions of the House-passed bill and Senate committee-reported bill
might be negotiated. Typically, the compromise is included in a conference report on an omnibus appropriations
measure (see “Regular Appropriations Bills” section below).
32 House Rule XXII, clause 9, and Senate Rule XXVIII, paragraphs 2 and 3.
33 Senate Rule XLIV, paragraph 8.
however, may strike new matter or new directed spending provisions from the conference report
by points of order thereby rejecting it. The Senate can avoid this situation by adopting a motion to
waive the applicable rule by a three-fifths vote of all Senators duly chosen and sworn (60
Senators if there are no vacancies). If the Presiding Officer sustains point(s) of order against new
matter or new directed spending provisions, the offending language is stricken from the bill. After
all points of order under both requirements have been disposed of, the Senate considers a motion
to send the remaining provisions to the House as an amendment between the houses since they
cannot amend the conference report. The House would then consider the amendment. The House
may choose to further amend the Senate amendment and return to the Senate for further
consideration. If the House, however, agrees to the amendment the measure is sent to the 34
In cases in which either the conference report is rejected or recommitted to the conference 35
committee, the conferees negotiate further over the matters in dispute between the two houses.
The measure cannot be sent to the President until both houses have agreed to the entire text of the
Under the Constitution,36 after Congress sends the bill to the President, he has 10 days to sign or
veto the measure. If he takes no action, the bill automatically becomes law at the end of the 10-
day period. Conversely, if he takes no action when Congress has adjourned, he may pocket veto
If the President vetoes the bill, he sends it back to Congress. Congress may override the veto by a
two-thirds vote in both houses. If Congress successfully overrides the veto, the bill becomes law.
If Congress is unsuccessful, the bill dies.
There are three major types appropriations measures: regular appropriations bills, continuing
resolutions, and supplemental appropriations measures. Of the three types, regular appropriations 37
bills typically provide most of the funding.
The House and Senate annually consider several regular appropriations measures. Each House
and Senate appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction over one regular bill. Due to the 2007
34 For more detailed information on these Senate rules, see CRS Report RS22733, Senate Rules Changes in the 110th
Congress Affecting Restrictions on the Content of Conference Reports, by Elizabeth Rybicki.
35 If either house rejects the conference report, the two houses normally agree to further conference, usually appointing
the same conferees.
36 U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 7.
37 A notable exception was an FY2007 continuing resolution (P.L. 110-5, 121 Stat. 8), which provided funding for nine
FY2007 regular appropriations bills through the end of FY2007.
House and Senate appropriations committees’ reorganization, each chamber considers 12 regular
Regular appropriations bills contain a series of unnumbered paragraphs with headings; generally
reflecting a unique budget account. The basic unit of regular and supplemental appropriations
bills is the account. Under these measures, funding for each department and large independent
agency is distributed among several accounts. Each account, generally, includes similar programs,
projects, or items, such as a “research and development” account or “salaries and expenses”
account. For small agencies, a single account may fund all of the agency’s activities. These acts
typically provide a lump-sum amount for each of these accounts. A few accounts include a single
program, project, or item, which the appropriations act funds individually.
In report language,38 the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations provide more detailed
directions to the departments and agencies on the distribution of funding among various activities
funded within an account. Funding for most local projects are specified in report language, as
opposed to the text of the appropriations bill. Congressional earmarks (referred to as
congressionally directed spending items in Senate Rule XLIV) are frequently included in report
language and have also been provided in a bill, amendment, or conference report.
Appropriations measures may also provide transfer authority.39 Transfers shift budget authority
from one account or fund to another. For example, an agency moving new budget authority from
a “salaries and expenses” account to a “construction” account would be a transfer. Agencies are
prohibited from making such transfers without statutory authority.
In contrast, agencies may generally shift budget authority from one activity to another within an 40
account without such statutory authority. This is referred to as reprogramming. The
appropriations subcommittees have established notification and other oversight procedures for the
various agencies to follow regarding reprogramming actions. Generally, these procedures differ
with each subcommittee.
Congress has traditionally considered and approved each regular appropriations bill separately,
but Congress has on occasion combined several bills together. For 19 of the past 32 years
(FY1977-FY2008), Congress has packaged two or more regular appropriations bills together in 4142
one measure. These packages are referred to as omnibus appropriation measures.
38 Report language refers to the content of committee reports and joint explanatory statements, which are attached to
the back of conference reports.
39 Authorization measures may also provide transfer authority. For information on authorization measures, see
“Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriation Measures” below.
40 Transfer authority may be required, however, in cases in which the appropriations act includes a set aside for a
specified activity within an account.
41 For example, the FY2001 Energy and Water Development bill was attached to the FY2001 Veterans Affairs,
Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies bill. The FY2001 Legislative Branch bill and Treasury
and General Government bill were attached to the FY2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related
42 There is no agreed upon definition of omnibus appropriations measure, but the term minibus appropriations measure
refers to a measure including only a few regular appropriations bills, while omnibus appropriations measure refers to a
measure containing several regular bills.
In these cases, Congress typically began consideration of each regular bill separately, but
generally has combined some of the bills together at the conference stage. During conference on a
single regular appropriations bill, the conferees typically have included in the conference report
the final agreements on other outstanding regular appropriations bills, thereby creating an
omnibus appropriations measure.
Packaging, as shown in Table 1, was used for nine consecutive fiscal years beginning for
FY1980. The first two of those years (FY1980-FY1981) occurred while President Jimmy Carter
was in the White House, and the remaining seven were
during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Since that time, it has been used 10 times—five during
President William Jefferson Clinton’s presidency (FY1996-FY1997 and FY1999-FY2001) and
five while President George W. Bush has been in the White House (FY2003-FY2005 and
In two years (FY1987 and FY1988) during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, all of the bills were
enacted in an omnibus bill; while in three years (FY2003, FY2007, and FY2008), while President
George W. Bush has been in the White House, all but one or two bills have been enacted as a part
of a package.
Packaging regular appropriations bills can be an efficient means for resolving outstanding
differences within Congress or between Congress and the President. The negotiators can make
more convenient trade-offs between issues among several bills and complete consideration of
appropriations using fewer measures.
The provisions in regular appropriations bills typically allow funds to be obligated only until the
end of the fiscal year, October 1. If action on one or more regular appropriations measures has not
been completed by the deadline, the agencies funded by these bills must cease nonessential
activities due to lack of budget authority. Traditionally, continuing appropriations have been used
to maintain temporary funding for agencies and programs until the regular bills are enacted. Such
appropriations continuing funding are usually provided in a joint resolution, hence the term
continuing resolution (or CR).
Table 1. Number of Regular Appropriations Bills Packaged in Omnibus (or Minibus)
Fiscal Presidential Regular Acts in Omnibus
Year Administration or Minibus Measure
1977 Gerald Ford 0
1978 Jimmy Carter 0
1982 Ronald Reagan 3
Fiscal Presidential Regular Acts in Omnibus
Year Administration or Minibus Measure
1990 George H.W. Bush 0
1994 William Clinton 0
2002 George W. Bush 0
Sources: U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Appropriations, Budget Estimates, Etc., committee
prints, 94th Cong., 2nd sess.-103rd , Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1976-1994); and U.S. Congress, House, thth
Calendars of the U.S. House of Representatives and History of Legislation, 94-110 Congresses (Washington: GPO, 1976-
a. The FY2001 Energy and Water Development bill was attached to the FY2001 Veterans Affairs, Housing and
Urban Development, and Independent Agencies bill. The FY2001 Legislative Branch bill and Treasury and
General Government bill were attached to the FY2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and
Related Agencies bill.
In 27 of the past 32 years (FY1977-FY2008), Congress and the President did not complete action
on a majority of the regular bills by the start of the fiscal year (see Table 2). In eight years, they
did not finish any of the bills before October 1. They completed action on all the bills on schedule
only four times: FY1977, FY1989, FY1995, and FY1997.
In November and again in December 1995, FY1996 continuing resolutions expired and some
regular appropriations bills had not been enacted. As a result, nonessential activities that would
have been funded in those regular bills stopped and federal workers hired to perform those
services were sent home.
On or before the start of the fiscal year, Congress and the President generally complete action on
an initial continuing resolution that temporarily funds the outstanding regular appropriations bills.
In contrast to funding practices in regular bills (i.e., providing appropriations for each account),
temporary continuing resolutions generally provide funding by a rate and/or formula. Recently,
the continuing resolutions have generally provided a rate at the levels provided in the previous
fiscal year. The initial CR typically provides temporary funding until a specific date or until the
enactment of the applicable regular appropriations acts, if earlier. Once the initial CR becomes
law, additional interim continuing resolutions are frequently utilized to sequentially extend the
expiration date. These subsequent continuing resolutions sometimes change the funding methods.
Over the past 31 fiscal years, Congress has approved, on average, four continuing resolutions
each year (see Table 2).
Congress frequently considers one or more supplemental appropriations measures (or
supplementals) for a fiscal year that generally increase funding for selected activities previously
funded in the regular bills. Recent supplementals have also been used to provide funds for the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supplementals may provide funding for unforeseen needs (such as
funds to recover from a hurricane, earthquake or flood); or increase or provide funding for other
activities. These measures, like regular appropriations bills, provide specific amounts of funding
for individual accounts in the bill. Sometimes Congress includes supplemental appropriations in
regular bills and continuing resolutions rather than in a separate supplemental bill.
During a calendar year, Congress typically considers, at least
• 12 regular appropriations bills for the fiscal year that begins on October 1;
• few continuing resolutions for the same fiscal year; and
• one or more supplementals for the previous fiscal year.
Table 2. Regular Appropriations Bills Completed by Deadline and Number of
Continuing Resolutions, FY1977-FY2008
Fiscal Presidential Regular Appropriations Bills Became Law by or Continuing Resolutions
Year Administration on October 1st Became Law
1977 Gerald Ford 13 (2a )
1978 Jimmy Carter 9 3
1979 5 1
1980 3 2
1981 1 2
1982 Ronald Reagan 0 4
1983 1 2
1984 4 2
Fiscal Presidential Regular Appropriations Bills Became Law by or Continuing Resolutions
Year Administration on October 1st Became Law
1985 4 5
1986 0 5
1987 0 5
1988 0 5
1989 13 0
1990 George H.W. Bush 1 3
1991 0 5
1992 3 4
1993 1 1
1994 William J. Clinton 2 3
1995 13 0
1996 0 14
1997 13b 0
1998 1 6
1999 1 6
2000 4 7
2001 2 21
2002 George W. Bush 0 8
2003 0 8
2004 3 5
2005 1 3
2006 2 3
2007 1 4c
2008 0 4d
Sources: U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Appropriations, Budget Estimates, Etc., 94th Cong., 2nd
sess.-04th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 1976-1995). U.S. Congress, House, Calendars of the U.S. House of thstthst
Representatives and History of Legislation, 104 Cong., 1 sess.-107 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1995-2005).
a. The two CRs did not provide continuing funding for entire regular bills; instead, they provided funding for
b. Five regular bills were attached to the FY1997 defense regular act, which became law on September 30. As a
result, the FY1997 appropriations process was completed by October 1.
c. The initial FY2007 CR was included in the FY2007 Department of Defense regular appropriations act (P.L.
Division B; 120 Stat. 1257).
d. The second FY2008 CR was included in the FY2008 Department of Defense regular appropriations act (P.L.
Division B; 121 Stat. 1295).
The Congressional Budget Act established a process through which Congress annually sets
spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution and enforces those ceilings with
parliamentary rules, or points of order, during congressional consideration of budgetary
legislation, including appropriations bills.
As mentioned previously, within each chamber, the total budget authority and outlays included in
the annual budget resolution are allocated among the House and Senate committees with
jurisdiction over spending, including the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.
Through this allocation process, the budget resolution sets total spending ceilings for each House 43
and Senate committee (referred to as the 302(a) allocations). Table 3 provides 302(a)
allocations to the House Committee on Appropriations for FY2008.
Table 3. House Committee on Appropriations’ 302(a) Allocations for FY2008
(in billions of dollars)
Spending Category Budget Authority Outlays
Discretionary 953.053 1,028.398
Mandatory 548.676 536.972
Source: U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, 2007, Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2008,
conference report to accompany S.Con.Res. 21, H.Rept. 110-153, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington:
GPO, 2007), p. 129.
Table 3 includes allocations for discretionary spending and mandatory spending. Congress
divides budget authority and the resulting outlays into two categories: discretionary spending and 44
mandatory spending (including net interest). Discretionary spending is controlled by the annual
appropriations acts, which are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Committees on
Appropriations. In contrast, mandatory spending is controlled by authorization (or legislative) 45
acts under the jurisdiction of the authorization (or legislative) committees. Appropriations
measures include all the discretionary spending and some of the mandatory spending.
Discretionary spending provides funds for a wide variety of activities, such as those described in 46
the “Introduction”above, whereas mandatory spending primarily funds entitlement programs as
43 This refers to section 302(a) of the Congressional Budget Act. Typically, these are provided in the joint explanatory
statement that accompanies the conference report on the budget resolution.
44 “In the federal budget, net interest comprises the government’s interest payments on debt held by the public, offset
by interest income that the government receives on loans and cash balances and by earnings of the National Railroad
Retirement Investment Trust.” U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Glossary of Budgetary and Economic Terms,
available at http://www.cbo.gov.
45 For example, Social Security and Medicare Part A are under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Ways and
Means and Senate Committee on Finance. Most standing committees are legislative committees, such as the House
Committee on Armed Services and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. For more information, see “Relationship
Between Authorization and Appropriation Measures” below.
46 The Congressional Budget Office defines entitlement as:A legal obligation of the federal government to make
well as other mandatory spending programs. Of the total outlays for FY2006, 38% was
discretionary spending, 53% was mandatory spending, and 9% was net interest.
Regarding the distribution of discretionary spending outlays for FY2006, 51% of the outlays was
for defense activities, 45% for domestic activities, and 4% for international activities.
The mandatory spending provided in appropriations measures is predominantly for entitlement
programs, referred to as appropriated entitlements. These entitlements are funded through a two-
step process. First, authorizing legislation becomes law that sets program parameters (through
eligibility requirements and benefit levels, for example); then the appropriations committees must
provide the budget authority needed to meet the commitment. The appropriations committees
have little control over the amount of budget authority provided, since the amount needed is the 47
result of previously enacted commitments in legislative law.
Congress also controls mandatory spending by controlling budget authority. It does not, however,
generally control this form of budget authority by setting specific spending levels. It controls
mandatory spending, instead by, establishing parameters for government commitments in
permanent law, such as Social Security benefit levels and eligibility requirements.
After the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations receive their 302(a) allocations, they
separately subdivide their allocations among their subcommittees, providing each subcommittee 48
with a ceiling. These subdivisions are referred to as the 302(b) allocations. Table 4 provides the
House Committee on Appropriations’ initial 302(b) allocations of discretionary, mandatory
spending for FY2008.
Making 302(b) allocations is within the jurisdiction of the House and Senate appropriations
committees, and they typically make revisions to reflect action on the appropriations bills.
The spending ceilings associated with the annual budget resolution that apply to appropriations
measures are generally for a single fiscal year (the upcoming fiscal year), since appropriations 49
measures are annual. If the budget resolution is significantly delayed (or is never completed),
there are no total spending ceilings, 302(a) allocations, or 302(b) allocations to enforce until the
budget resolution is in place. In such instances, the House and Senate have often adopted separate
deeming resolutions providing, at least, temporary 302(a) allocations, thereby, establishing some 50
enforceable spending ceilings.
payments to a person, group of people, business, unit of government, or similar entity that meets the eligibility criteria
set in law and for which the budget authority is not provided in advance in an appropriation act. Spending for
entitlement programs is controlled through those programs’ eligibility criteria and benefit or payment rules. The best-
known entitlements are the government’s major benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. U.S.
Congressional Budget Office, Glossary of Budgetary and Economic Terms, available at http://www.cbo.gov.
47 Some mandatory spending is provided through a one-step process in which the authorization act sets the program
parameters and provides the budget authority, such as Social Security.
48 This refers to section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Act.
49 In contrast, spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution that apply to legislative measures are generally
provided for several fiscal years.
50 For more information, see CRS Report RL31443, The “Deeming Resolution”: A Budget Enforcement Tool, by
Since Congress did not expect to adopt a FY2007 budget resolution, both the House and Senate 51
adopted separate deeming resolutions in 2006. The House adopted a special rule that, in part, 52
deemed the House-adopted FY2007 budget resolution and accompanying committee report in
effect for enforcement purposes. As a result, the FY2007 total spending ceilings and 302(a)
allocations (and therefore, subsequent 302(b) allocations) were in effect. The Senate included in a
FY2006 supplemental appropriations act a deeming provision that, in part, set FY2007 302(a) 53
allocations for the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Table 4. Initial House Appropriations Committee’s 302(b) Allocations for FY2008
(in billions of dollars)
Subcommittee Discretionary Mandatory Total
New Budget Authority 18.825 32.905 51.730
Outlays 20.027 21.115 41.142
Commerce, Justice, and Science
New Budget Authority 53.551 0.234 53.785
Outlays 55.318 0.225 55.543
New Budget Authority 459.332 0.263 459.595
Outlays 475.980 0.263 476.243
Energy and Water Development
New Budget Authority 31.603 31.603
Outlays 32.774 32.775
Financial Services and General Government
New Budget Authority 21.028 21.394 42.422
Outlays 21.650 21.388 43.038
New Budget Authority 36.254 1.072 37.326
Outlays 38.247 1.066 39.313
Interior and Environment
New Budget Authority 27.598 0.054 27.652
Outlays 28.513 0.055 28.568
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
New Budget Authority 151.112 451.491 602.603
Outlays 148.433 451.718 600.151
51 H.Res. 818 (109th Cong.), section 2.
52 H.Con.Res. 376 (109th Cong.).
53 P.L. 109-234, section 7035(a); 120 Stat. 418.
Subcommittee Discretionary Mandatory Total
New Budget Authority 4.024 0.126 4.150
Outlays 4.036 0.126 4.162
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
New Budget Authority 64.745 40.978 105.723
Outlays 54.831 40.856 95.687
State and Foreign Operations
New Budget Authority 34.243 0.159 34.402
Outlays 33.351 0.159 33.510
Transportation and Housing and Urban Development
New Budget Authority 50.738 50.738
Outlays 114.869 114.869
New Budget Authority 953.053 548.676 1,501.729
Outlays 1,028.398 536.972 1,565.910
Source: U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Report on the Suballocation to Budget Allocations for Fiscal
Year 2008, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 2007), pp. 2-3.
a. The committee also set aside a small full committee allowance of $0.369 billion in discretionary outlays.
Certain spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution are enforced through points of
order raised on the House and Senate floors when the appropriations measures are considered.
These points of order are not self-enforcing. A Representative or Senator must raise a point of
order that a measure, amendment, or conference report violates a specific rule. Generally, if a
Member raises a point of order below, and the presiding officer rules that the measure,
amendment, or conference report violates the parliamentary rule, the chamber may not consider it
on the floor.
Two Congressional Budget Act points of order, 302(f) and 311(a),54 as well as a separate order in 55
the House are available to enforce certain spending ceilings associated with the annual budget
resolution. The Congressional Budget Act points of order apply to committee-reported 5657
appropriations bills, certain non-reported appropriations bills, amendments, and conference
54 These refer to sections 302(f) and 311(a), respectively, of the Congressional Budget Act (see also, section 403 of
H.Res. 6 (110th Cong.).
55 A separate order is a provision that is not a part of the House Standing Rules, but is provided under the rulemaking
authority of the House. Section 511(a)(5) of H.Res. 6 (110th Cong.) established the separate order, which is identical to th
a separate order established in the previous Congress (section 2 of H.Res. 248 (109 Cong.).
56 The House Committee on Appropriations almost always reports regular and major supplemental appropriations bills.
reports to these measures; they do not apply to appropriations bills amended on the floor. If such
legislation violates these rule the legislation cannot be considered. The separate order also
provides a procedure to enforce the 302(b) ceilings for certain amended appropriations measures th
for the 110 Congress.
The 302(f) point of order prohibits floor consideration of such legislation58 providing new budget
authority for the upcoming fiscal year that would cause the applicable committee 302(a) or
subcommittee 302(b) allocations of new budget authority for that fiscal year to be exceeded. In
effect, the application of this point of order on appropriations legislation is generally limited to
discretionary spending (and any mandatory spending changes initiated on the appropriations 59
measures). If, for example, the committee-reported FY2008 agriculture appropriations bill
provided $18.825 billion new discretionary budget authority, which equals the agriculture
subcommittee’s 302(b) allocation in Table 4, any amendment proposing new discretionary budget
authority would violate the 302(f) point of order.
The 311(a) point of order prohibits floor consideration of legislation providing new budget
authority for the upcoming fiscal year that would cause the applicable total budget authority and 60
outlay ceilings in the budget resolution for that fiscal year to be exceeded. As the amounts of all
the spending measures considered in the House accumulate, they could potentially reach or
exceed these ceilings. This point of order would typically affect the last spending bills to be
considered, such as supplemental appropriations measures or the last regular appropriations bills.
In the House, the so-called Fazio Exception, however, exempts legislation if it would not cause 61
the applicable committee 302(a) allocations to be exceeded. If, for example, the pending
appropriations legislation would not cause the House Appropriations Committee’s 302(a)
allocations to be exceed, then the legislation would be exempt from the 311(a) point of order.
Appropriations measures considered on the House floor typically include an amount at or just
below the subcommittee 302(b) allocations and, in some cases, the committee 302(a) allocations
and the total spending ceilings as well. As a result, amendments that would increase new budget
authority in an appropriations measure for certain activities must typically decrease funding for
other activities in the pending bill. There are two types of House offset amendments considered in
Committee of the Whole: clause 2(f) and reachback (or fetchback) amendments. Under House
Rule XXI, clause 2(f) offset amendments may be offered that consist of two or more amendments
considered together (or en bloc) that would change amounts by directly adding text or changing
It, however, does not generally report continuing resolutions.
57 If a special rule expedites consideration of a measure by ordering the previous question directly to passage, the form
of the measure considered is subject to the points of order. Some continuing resolutions are considered by this
58 In this context, legislation refers the committee-reported and non-committee reported bills as well as amendments
and conference reports to those bills. This definition contrasts with “legislation” as it is defined for purposes of the
authorization-appropriation process (see “Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriation Measures” below).
59 It does not affect increased mandatory spending that the appropriators are required to provide. For example, if the
House Committee on Appropriations is required to increase new budget authority for unemployment compensation due
to a recession, such budget authority would not be subject to the point of order.
60 This rule exempts, in part, appropriations measures and related amendments, that would not cause the 302(a)
allocation to be exceeded, referred to as the Fazio exception.
61 Section 311(c) of the Congressional Budget Act. The title of the exception refers to former Representative Victor
Herbert Fazio, Jr., (CA).
text in the body of the bill. Taken as a whole the amendment can not increase the total new budget
authority or outlays in the pending bill. Reachback offset amendments are generally offered at the
end of the bill and change funding amounts in the pending bill by reference. These amendment 62
must provide offsets in new budget authority, but not necessarily outlays.
For the 110th Congress, the separate order extends enforcement of 302(b) allocations to
appropriations bills amended in the Committee of the Whole. Regular appropriations bills and
major supplemental appropriations measures are typically considered for amendment in the
Committee of the Whole. The order generally establishes a point of order in the Committee of the
Whole against a motion to rise and report to the House an appropriations bill that, as amended, 63
exceeds the applicable 302(b) allocation in new budget authority. If the Presiding Officer
sustains a point of order against such a motion, the bill does not fall or automatically remain in
the Committee of the Whole; instead, the Committee of the Whole must decide, by a vote, 64
whether to adopt the motion even though the amended measure exceeds the allocation.
Significantly, the separate order does not apply to a motion to rise and report proposed after the
bill has been read for amendment, if offered by the majority leader (or a designee). As a result, the
majority leader (or designee) may be able to preempt consideration of a motion to rise enforcing
the 302(b) allocation, if the Committee of the Whole agrees, by majority vote, to a motion to
The House may waive or suspend these three points of order by adopting, by majority vote, a
special rule waiving the particular point of order prior to floor consideration of the appropriations
Three points of order typically enforce spending ceilings associated with the budget resolution. 65
Two are Congressional Budget Act points of order, 302(f) and 311(a). The Senate versions of
these rules, however, vary from the House versions. The annual budget resolution typically
establishes another Senate point of order that enforces separate total discretionary spending 66
ceilings established in the budget resolution. In the Senate, these points of order apply to all
appropriations measures, both reported by the committee and as amended on the floor, as well as
amendments, motions, and conferences reports to these measures.
62 For more information, see CRS Report RL31055, House Offset Amendments to Appropriations Bills: Procedural
Considerations, by Sandy Streeter.
63 For more detailed information on motions to rise, CRS Report RL32200, Debate, Motions, and Other Actions in the
Committee of the Whole, by Bill Heniff Jr. and Elizabeth Rybicki.
64 If the committee votes against “rising,” it may consider one proper amendment, such as an amendment reducing
funds in the bill to bring it into compliance with the allocation. The separate order also provides an up-or-down vote on
the amendment. Only one such point of order may be raised against a single measure.
Special rules providing for the consideration of bills routinely preclude the necessity for a motion to rise and report by
ordering the Committee of the Whole to rise and report after all amendments have been considered. Since adoption of th
the original separate order (H.Res. 248 (109 Cong.) on April 28, 2005, almost all special rules providing for the
consideration of regular appropriations bills have not included such an order, thereby, providing an opportunity for
Representatives to raise this point of order.
65 These refer to sections 302(f) and 311(a), respectively, of the Congressional Budget Act.
66 Section 312(a) and (b) of the FY2009 budget resolution, Con.Res. 70 (110th Cong.), included such spending limits
and a point of order for FY2009.
The Senate 302(f) point of order prohibits floor consideration of such legislation providing new
budget authority for the upcoming fiscal year that would cause the applicable 302(b) allocations
in new budget authority and outlays for that fiscal year to be exceeded. In contrast to the House, it
(1) does not enforce the 302(a) allocations and (2) does enforce the outlay allocations. The 311(a)
point of order in the Senate is similar to the House version. The Senate, however, does not
provide for an exception similar to the Fazio Exception in the House. Section 312 of the FY2009
budget resolution prohibits the consideration of legislation that would cause the discretionary
spending limits in new budgetary authority in outlays established in the budget resolution to be
The FY2009 budget resolution included another point of order prohibiting provisions in
appropriations legislation that would produce a net increase in the cost of mandatory spending 67
Senators may make motions to waive these points of order at the time the issue is raised.
Currently, a vote of three-fifths of all Senators (60 Senators if there are no vacancies) is required
to approve a waiver motion for any of these points of order. A vote to appeal the presiding
officer’s ruling also requires three-fifths vote of all Senators. These super-majority vote
requirements for the 302(f) and 311(a) points are currently scheduled to expire on September 30,
Since 1990, both the House and Senate have, generally, developed procedures to exempt from the
above spending ceilings funding for emergencies. These procedures have evolved over time.
In the House and Senate, new budget authority and resulting outlays designated in the legislation 68
as necessary to meet emergency needs are exempt from the 302(f) and 311(a) points of order.
A super-majority vote requirement, however, is needed to utilize the emergency designation
exemption in the Senate. A Senator may raise a point of order against an emergency designation
in legislation, a motion to waive the point of order or an appeal of the Presiding Officer’s ruling
requires a three-fifths vote of all Senators (60 Senators if there are no vacancies). If the Presiding
Officer sustains the point of order, the designation is stricken and then the legislation or
amendment may be vulnerable to the various enforceable spending ceilings.
Recently, the House and Senate have provided an exemption for new budgetary authority (and
resulting outlays) that is designated for overseas deployment and related activities. In practice,
overseas deployment and emergency designations considered in the House may be included in the
committee-reported bills and conference reports, but not in floor amendments. Under House
precedents these designations are considered legislation on an appropriations bill and, therefore,
prohibited under House Rule XXI, clause 2(b) and (c). This language is considered to create new 69
law, which would not otherwise exist. The House, sometimes, adopts a special rule waiving this
67 See section 314, S.Con.Res. 70 (110th Cong.).
68 House exemption provided in the FY2009 budget resolution, S.Con.Res. 70, section 301(b)(2) (110th Cong.); Senate
exemption included in the FY2008 budget resolution, S.Con.Res. 21, section 204 (110th Cong.).
69 Specifically, special budgetary designations pursuant to the concurrent resolution on the budget are considered
“legislation on an appropriations bill.” Special budgetary designations include provisions (1) designating funds as
point of order against emergency and contingency operations designations in the reported bills
and conference reports, but not such provisions in floor amendments.
By contrast, under Senate precedents such designations are not considered legislation on an
appropriations bill. Emergency designations may be included in Senate floor amendments as well
as committee amendments, reported bills, amended bills, and conference reports.
Congress has established an authorization-appropriation process that provides for two separate
types of measures—authorization measures and appropriation measures. These bills perform
different functions and are to be considered in sequence. First, the authorization is enacted and
then appropriation measures provide funding.
Authorization acts establish, continue, or modify agencies or programs. For example, an
authorization act may establish or modify programs within the Department of Defense. An
authorization act may also explicitly authorize subsequent appropriations for specific agencies
and programs, frequently setting spending ceilings for them. These authorization of
appropriations provisions may be permanent, annual, or multi-year authorizations. Annual and
multi-year provisions require re-authorizations when they expire. Congress is not required to
provide appropriations for an authorized discretionary spending program.
Authorization measures are under the jurisdiction of legislative committees such as the House
Committees on Agriculture and Homeland Security, or the Senate Committees on Armed Services
and the Judiciary. Most congressional committees are legislative committees. The House and
Senate Committees on Appropriations, however, are not. Appropriations measures provide new
budget authority for programs, activities, or agencies previously authorized.
House and Senate rules enforce separation of these functions into different measures by
separating committee jurisdiction over authorization and appropriations bills, and with points of 70
order prohibiting certain provisions in appropriations measures. The House and Senate prohibit,
in varying degrees, language in appropriations bills providing unauthorized appropriations or
legislation on an appropriations bill. An unauthorized appropriation is new budget authority in an
appropriations measure (including an amendment or conference report) for agencies or programs
with no current authorization, or whose budget authority exceeds the ceiling authorized.
Legislation refers to language in appropriations measures that change existing law, such as
establishing new law, or amending or repealing current law. Legislation is under the jurisdiction
of the authorizing committees (also called legislative committees).
“making appropriations for contingency operations directly related to the global war on terrorism and other th
unanticipated defense-related operations” under sec. 402 of H.Con.Res. 376 (109 Cong.); and (2) designating funds as
“an emergency requirement” under title v of the same resolution. For more information on legislation on an
appropriations bill, see “Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriation Measures” section below.
70 House Rule XXI, clause 2; House Rule XXII, clause 5; and Senate Rule XVI. House rules also prohibit
appropriations in authorization measures, amendments, or conference reports (Rule XXI, clause 4 and House Rule
XXII, clause 5).
House rules prohibit unauthorized appropriations and legislation in regular appropriations bills
and supplemental appropriations measures which provide funds for more than one purpose or
agency (referred to in the House as general appropriations bills). However, House rules do not
prohibit such provisions in continuing resolutions. The House prohibition applies to bills reported
by the House Appropriations Committee, amendments, and conference reports. The House may
adopt a special rule waiving this rule prior to floor consideration of the appropriations bill or 71
conference report. The point of order applies to the text of the bill, as well as any amendments
or conference reports.
In the Senate, unauthorized appropriations and legislation are treated differently. The Senate rule
regarding such language applies to regular bills, supplementals which provide funds for more
than one purpose or agency, and continuing resolutions (referred to in the Senate as general
This Senate rule applies only to amendments to general appropriations bills, such as, those
• introduced on the Senate floor;
• reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee to the House-passed measure;
• proposed as a substitute for the House-passed text.
The rule does not apply to provisions in Senate bills or conference reports. For example, this rule
did not apply to provisions in S. 1005, the FY1998 Defense appropriations bill, as reported by the
Senate Appropriations Committee. But it did apply to provisions in H.R. 2107, the FY1998
Interior bill, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee, since this version of the bill 72
consisted of amendments to the House-passed bill. Recently, the Senate has adopted unanimous
consent agreements, on a bill-by-bill basis, that make these points of order applicable to the
provisions of Senate bills.
The Senate rule is less restrictive than the House regarding what is prohibited as unauthorized
appropriations. For example, the Senate Appropriations Committee may report committee
amendments containing unauthorized appropriations. Similarly, an amendment moved by
direction of the committee with legislative jurisdiction or in pursuance of an estimate submitted in
accordance with law would not be prohibited as unauthorized. An appropriation also is considered
authorized if the Senate has previously passed the authorization during the same session of
Congress. In contrast, in the House, the authorization must be in law. As a result, while the Senate
rule generally prohibits unauthorized appropriations, Senators rarely raise this point of order
because of these exceptions to the rule.
The Senate rule prohibits legislation in both Senate Appropriations Committee amendments and 73
non-committee amendments. It also prohibits non-germane amendments.
71 The special rule may provide a waiver for specified provisions or all provisions in the bill that are subject to the point
of order. The special rule may also provide a waiver for specific amendments. Special rules typically waive points of
order against all provisions in all conference reports on general appropriations measures.
72 The Senate rule reflects Senate practices at the time the rule was established. The Senate Appropriations Committee
traditionally reported numerous amendments to the House-passed appropriations bill, instead of reporting an original
Senate bill. Therefore, the rule’s prohibition only applies to amendments, both committee and floor amendments.
73 Under Senate precedents, an amendment containing legislation may be considered if it is germane to language in the
The division between an authorization and an appropriation applies only to congressional
consideration. If unauthorized appropriations or legislation remain in an appropriations measure
as enacted, either because no one raised a point of order or the House or Senate waived the rules,
the provision will have the force of law. Unauthorized appropriations, if enacted, are generally
available for obligation or expenditure.
Rescissions cancel previously enacted budget authority. For example, if Congress provided $1.6
billion to construct a submarine, it could enact subsequent legislation canceling all or part of the
budget authority prior to its obligation. Rescissions are an expression of changed or differing
priorities. They may also be used to offset increases in budget authority for other activities.
The President may recommend rescissions to Congress, but it is up to Congress to act on them. 74
Under Title X of the Congressional Budget Act, if Congress does not enact a bill approving the
President’s rescissions within 45 days of continuous session of Congress, the budget authority
must be made available for obligation.
In response to the President’s recommendation, Congress may decide not to approve the amount
specified by the President, approve the total amount, or approve a different amount. For example,
in 2005, the President requested a rescission of $106 million from the Department of Defense
(DOD), Operations and Maintenance, Defense-Wide account and $48.6 million from DOD,
Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Army account. Congress provided a rescission of
$80 million from the first account in the Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental
Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 75
Congress may also initiate rescissions. In the above Act, Congress also included a rescission of
$10 million from the Department of State, Diplomatic and Consular Programs account.
As budget authority providing the funding must be enacted into law, so, too, a rescission
canceling the budget authority must be enacted into law. Rescissions can be included either in
separate rescission measures or any of the three types of appropriations measures.
House-passed appropriations bill. That is, if the House opens the door by including a legislative provision in an
appropriations bill, the Senate has an “inherent right” to amend it. However, if the Senate considers an original Senate
bill, rather than the House-passed bill with amendments, there is no House language to which the legislative provision
could be germane. Therefore, the defense of germaneness is not available.
74 Title X is referred to as the Impoundment Control Act.
75 P.L. 109-148, 119 Stat. 2680.
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process