Adjustments for Discretionary Spending Limits

Under section 251(b) (BBEDCA), the discretionary spending limits set forth in subsection (c) of that section, may be adjusted by the Office of Management and Budget for certain purposes. The adjustment that has been in law for the longest time is also one of the most difficult to explain, and least liable to be used. These are for changes in “concepts and definitions” found in section 251(b)(1) (BBEDCA).  A good example of this is cited by the GAO Glossary from 1993 (Exposure Draft), which identifies a “redefinition of budget authority to include authority to collect offsetting receipts.” This would necessitate a reformulation of the spending limits since the term “budget authority” is intrinsic to the limits themselves, using that term.

One of the more difficult hurdles to get by is that changes in concepts and definitions requires OMB consult with the Congressional Appropriations and Budget Committees.

See also Cap Adjustments.

Concepts and Definitions

The following is the legislative text for the adjustment for Concepts and Definitions.  

(1) Concepts and Definitions.—When the President submits the budget under section 1105 of title 31, United States Code, OMB shall calculate and the budget shall include adjustments to discretionary spending limits (and those limits as cumulatively adjusted) for the budget year and each outyear to reflect changes in concepts and definitions. Such changes shall equal the baseline levels of new budget authority and outlays using up-to-date concepts and definitions, minus those levels using the concepts and definitions in effect before such changes. Such changes may only be made after consultation with the Committees on Appropriations and the Budget of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and that consultation shall include written communication to such committees that affords such committees the opportunity to comment before official action is taken with respect to such changes.

GAO Glossary (1993 Exposure Draft) Definition of Concept and Definitions Adjustments

Adjustment for Changes in Concepts and Definitions

An adjustment to discretionary spending limits due to differences between baseline levels of outlays and new budget authority calculated using old concepts and definitions and those levels calculated using new concepts and definitions. Some changes in concepts and definitions, such as credit reform and the redefinition of budget authority to include authority to collect offsetting receipts, arose from the Budget Enforcement Act. Proposed changes that are not a result of the Budget Enforcement Act must be made in consultation with the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Budget, the House Committee on Government Operations and the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. (See also Budget Authority; Credit Reform.)

Budget Concepts from Analytical Perspectives

OMB Definition of Cap Adjustment

Cap adjustment means either an increase or a decrease that is permitted to the statutory cap limits for each fiscal year under BBEDCA on the budget authority and outlays (only if applicable) provided by discretionary appropriations only if certain conditions are met. These conditions may include providing for a base level of funding, a designation of the increase or decrease by the Congress, (and in some circumstances, the President) pursuant to a section of the BBEDCA, or a change in concepts and definitions of funding under the cap. Changes in concepts and definitions require consultation with the Congressional Appropriations and Budget Committees. See the OMB Glossary of Budget Terms.

Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2018: Analytical Perspectives (May 23, 2017), pp. 88-91.

Back to  §003. Adjustments


§002. Activities


Adjustment for Emergency Appropriations

[BCD § 003]