Allocations and Subdivisions in the Congressional Budget Process

Allocations and Subdivisions in
the Congressional Budget Process
Bill Heniff Jr.
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
The annual budget resolution sets forth total spending and revenue levels for at least
five fiscal years. The spending amounts are allocated, or “crosswalked,” to the House and
Senate committees having jurisdiction over discretionary spending (the Appropriations
Committees) and direct spending (the legislative committees). The committee allocations
provide Congress with one means of enforcing the spending levels of a budget resolution
after it has been adopted. See the CRS Guides to Congressional Processes at
[] for more information on the
budget process.
While the budget resolution allocates spending among the 20 major functional
categories of the federal budget for the purpose of providing a broad statement of budget
priorities, the functional categories do not correspond to the committee system by which
Congress operates. The committee allocations reformulate the functional category
amounts in a budget resolution to correspond to committee jurisdictions. By allocating
the spending among committees responsible for spending legislation, the committee
allocations allow Congress to hold its committees accountable for staying within the
spending limits established in the budget resolution.
Section 302(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Titles I-IX of P.L. 93-344,
88 Stat. 297-332), as amended, requires that the total budget authority and outlays set
forth in the budget resolution be allocated to each House and Senate committee that has
jurisdiction over specific spending legislation. These committee allocations usually are
included in the joint explanatory statement accompanying the conference report on a
budget resolution. Section 302(b) of the Budget Act requires the Appropriations
Committee of each chamber to subdivide its committee allocation among its
subcommittees as soon as practicable after a budget resolution has been adopted. The
Appropriations Committees are then required to report these subdivisions to their
respective chamber and may revise the subdivisions any time during the appropriations
process to reflect actions taken on spending legislation. Section 302(c) of the Budget Act
provides a point of order against the consideration of any appropriations measures before
the Appropriations Committees report their subdivisions.
The spending allocations may be revised after a budget resolution has been adopted
if provided for in the resolution. For instance, Congress usually includes reserve fund

provisions in the annual budget resolution, which provide the chairs of the House and
Senate Budget Committees the authority to revise the committee spending allocations if
certain legislation is reported by the appropriate committee or other conditions are met.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have jurisdiction over the regular
appropriations acts and other appropriations acts. The Appropriations Committees of
each chamber have parallel subcommittees, each of which is responsible for one of the
regular appropriations acts. After extensive hearings, each of the subcommittees reports
one of the regular appropriations bills to its respective full committee. Then, the full
Appropriations Committees report the bills to their respective chamber. A cost estimate
of each bill is prepared and compared to the amount allocated or subdivided to the
relevant subcommittee.
Section 302(f) of the Budget Act prohibits any measure or amendment that would
cause the 302(a) or 302(b) allocations to be exceeded. In the House, these committee
allocations and suballocations are the primary focus of enforcement since Section 311(c)
of the Budget Act, known as the “Fazio exception,” allows the overall limit of spending
to be breached so long as a committee’s 302(a) allocation is not exceeded.
The allocation limits are not self-enforcing; a Member must raise a point of order for
an allocation to be enforced. The points of order may also be waived. In the House, a
special rule may be adopted, or unanimous consent may be granted, waiving any
budgetary points of order. In the Senate, the point of order against violations of the
spending allocations may be waived by a motion under Section 904 of the Budget Act or
by unanimous consent. A motion to waive the point of order requires a three-fifths vote
of all Senators duly sworn and chosen (60 votes if there are no vacancies).