Budget Counsel Reference


Reference Source
for the
Congressional Budget Process


Welcome to the Budget Counsel Reference website. The intent and design here is to facilitate greater comprehension of Congressional budget law. Of the many responsibilities of the U.S. Congress, perhaps the most essential is its power over the resources of the United States. The law governing the budget process is not a matter of accounting, but the essence of a republican form of government. 

A Compendium of the Laws

For those who like actual books, a compendium of the budget laws can be obtained here:

A Compendium of the Budget Laws Annotated (116th Congress)

Bill of Note: H.R. 3877 (116th Congress) – Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019
Notes from beyond the wall
January 1, 2020

The death of the budget process has been routinely declared almost since the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 was enacted forty-six years ago.  While the reports of its death may be greatly exaggerated, it certainly has gone missing in the past few years, maybe five or so. With the battle over funding for the wall on the southern American border not really being about money, but causing a long government shutdown anyway, the contours of budget failure could be seen quite clearly.

With a new year, a new decade, perhaps things will change, but likely not since the same Congress and the same President, and the same vitriolic relationship between them, remain. Since the absence of anything remarkable happening in the budget world has curtailed the need to explain anything, this page has been somewhat empty (and lonely) for the pat several months. This is not exactly true, since the Federal Government chugs on, always having a dollar to spend on something.

While the impeachment of the President is the last thing in the world that needs to take up space here, since great effort has been expended in avoiding partisan politics, which ends up meaning writing in the passive voice — it helps when politics are to be avoided. Still, the budgetary angle is somewhat interesting, since the money that Democrats have accused President Trump if improperly suspending was appropriated for the Ukraine, and hence could not be “impounded” (see Impoundment Control Act of 1974), though “deferral” was an option. Unless authority was provided in the text of the appropriation, or in some form in the foreign aid parameter authorization, something Acting OMB Director Russ Vought (an old House Budget Committee Associate hand, and main staff author of the Family Budget Protection Act) would know all about. Enough about that.

In reading over the Constitution (which everyone does during the holiday season, much better than football), the powers of the Congress are listed in section 8 of Article I, and it is ironic, perhaps, that the very first two listed are the power to tax and the power to borrow.

No, the Budget Counsel Reference website is not really a constitutional law center, but putting up the whole Constitution seems like a worthwhile endeavor anyway. Hence that was the reason for coming to that particular realization in reading over the text. A link will be placed here when it is finished.

September 12, 2019

While the central purpose of this website is Congressional budget process law, the surrounding circumstances are inescapable. The current White House, the current House and Senate, and the times of 280 character (or however many they allow on that Twit service), do not cause even the sunniest of disposition hope for advance. The personalities for a deal, and that would be the requirement — and overall deal to address the major problems at hand, and the stomach to go farther than necessary. The distance would be to bind future Congresses and Presidents, as far as that is possible, through a process that encourages courage. One cannot mandate it, it cannot be forced, but it can be made easier.

In that vein, thing could be done now, by the Budget Committees, by the Congressional Leadership, by the White House, which might start preparing the debate. Right now, the four-year cycle is already too far along for even the sparest or barest of actions, but the things to do would not be for public consumption anyway.

In the real world, talking and doing are usually thought of as different, as in “he talks big, but never does anything.” Congress is not the real world insofar as talking and doing are almost indistinguishable. Talking is what they do, that’s how they became Members of Congress (or Senators, as the Senators always insist). The first thing would be someone has to care that the finances of the nation are in bad shape, and finding or assigning fault, blame, even responsibility, accomplishes little.

The last time the budget seemed to have any real importance in the Congress was when former Rep. Paul Ryan cut a deal with Senator Patty Murray, and that was back in 2013. Since then, he became Speaker and then retired, his replacement ran House Budget into the ground, and the Chairman of Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Mike Enzi, openly pondered eliminating the Budget Committees. The fact that this is not an extreme or outlandish proposition shows how far things have come.

So the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single … word.


Random thoughts from days past … collectively just called: The Blather File.

Items of Note

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019
H. Res. 6 (116th Congress)
The Joint Committee on Budget and Appropriations has a website …
Whither the Budget Committee? Wither the Budget Committee

Biennial Budgeting and the Budget as Law: An Inadvertent Trial Run
The Daft Draft: Wording and Debt Limit Language

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-123)
Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform (BBA 2018)

H. J. Res. 128, Continuing Resolution (Expiring February 8, 2018)
H. Con. Res. 71 (FY2018 Budget Resolution)
Bad Idea: Directed Scoring Provision
Current services budget deadline missed, again

Items of Note, the List

Budget Process

For some background on budget process, history, and reform: Analysis: Contemplating the Congressional Budget Process

Quote: the way the future looked and looks

“2002? Who cares about 2002? Do you think any of us will still be working here then?”

Rick May, Staff Director of the House Budget Committee in 1996 when advised of the implications a particular policy might have in the (then) future of 2002.

Periodic Counsel advisory

The Periodic Counsel Advisory was a sometime explanation of budgetary matters that was sent out by the Chief Counsel of the House Budget Committee some years ago, before leaving during the 115th Congress. 

Current Budget Resolution

None: Fiscal year 2020 levels have been deemed in the House, and the Senate has reported a concurrent resolution)