Budget Counsel Reference
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 New Compendium of the Laws
The last compilation of the budget laws and rules was published in 2015 and a new one has been overdue. “Comps” are documents that contain the up-to-date law on a particular subject and for drafting measures for Congress, or for fun, such a resource is indispensable. The budget laws are all here on this website, somewhere, but an actual book is easier to read, more convenient, and more navigable. For those who like paper, one can be obtained here:
Notes from beyond the wall
February 25, 2019
A change on the menus on this front page: The last and final volume of Deschler’s Precedents was published in 2013 and contained the precedents of the House of Representatives on the budget process. These are, naturally, applicable specifically to the House, but are invaluable nevertheless. Volume 18 is entirely dedicated to Chapter 41 and pertains to the laws and rules related to legislative consideration of measures by the House. Here it has been translated, so to speak, into an “online” version, noted as “BCR” (standing for Budget Counsel Reference). It must be emphasized that this is not officially sanctioned by the House Parliamentarian, his office, or anyone associated in an official position in the House. It is a good faith attempt to accurately present the information in the hard copy document in a web format. BCR notes do show up here and there, primarily to indicate changes that have occurred since its publication.
February 15, 2019
The President, and certainly the budget guys at OMB, with presumably at least the Judiciary non-political counsels, input, invoked provisions of the “National Emergencies Act“, codified at 50 U.S.C. 1601-1651 to justify spending money on the border wall. Not surprisingly this has been litigated (in the non-technical sense, though that too) before. The argument over whether the specifics of that Act apply is a much better one to have than over a generalized declaration of authority to reprogram funds (inadvisable at its very best). The context is provided by the President’s “Proclamation Declaring a National Emergency“ and its reference to a “National Security Presidential Memorandum.”
Perhaps one agreement that can be reached is that using this method of funding is not the best way to provide for “border security.” As a generalized concept, everyone is for this last, though the current acrimony over a wall seems particularly political and partisan. This level of harsh rhetoric did not accompany President George W. Bush’s policy of building a southern wall, nor President Barack Obama’s indifference toward the idea. The border wall was even promoted during the NAFTA debate of twenty-five years ago to help ease its passage.
The problem with approaching this issue is that the important budgetary angle, how to dispense budgetary resources of the Federal Government, is overshadowed by the evident interest of the President in a border wall and Nancy Peolosi’s interest in denying him one rather than opposition to the wall itself.
Suffice it to say that “emergency” spending has always been a problem, will always be complicated, and extends beyond the public sphere.
Random thoughts from days past … collectively just called: The Blather File.
Items of Note
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
With a Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform established by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, those keenly aware of the overwhelming need for such reform must be encouraged. The specifics of the procedures the Committee must follow are somewhat daunting, but any start is a good start. In particular, two thing make for difficulty: The time frame is short — the Select Committee is given only until the end of the year to finish the task. The other is that not only is a majority required of its members, but a majority of both Republicans and Democrats must be in favor it. With budget reform being difficult and complex, this is a hurdle, but optimism is in order since the topic has arisen and the opportunity for success is welcome.
For some background on the issue of budget reform, the below tractate lays out the basics:
Current Budget Resolution