C. The Appropriations Process and the Role of Committees
§ 6. Relationship to the Appropriations Process
As discussed earlier, the annual budget resolution is not a spending measure but represents instead a plan to guide the consideration of spending bills through Congress. The funding of government operations is still accomplished by the regular, annual appropriations process (as discussed in chapters 22–26), as well as funding that is accomplished via ‘‘direct’’ or ‘‘mandatory’’ spending. The budget resolution puts restrictions on the appropriations process by setting pre-determined boundaries (committee allocations, spending ceilings, etc.) and by providing enforcement mechanisms to limit the ability of Congress to exceed those boundaries.
Even before the advent of the Congressional Budget Act in 1974, the Committee on Appropriations was given special responsibilities related to the budget submission by the President. Pursuant to Rule X clause 4(a), originally adopted in 1971, the Committee on Appropriations is charged with holding hearings on ‘‘the Budget as a whole,’’ including the President’s budgetary policies and the economic assumptions that underlie the estimates reflecting those policies. Clause 4(a)(1)(B) mandates that certain testimony be taken by the committee, specifically from the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Additional duties on the Committee on Appropriations have been included in the rules of the House to correspond with requirements contained in the Congressional Budget Act. For example, Rule X clause 4(a)(3) requires the Committee on Appropriations to study ‘‘on a continuing basis’’ provisions of law that provide spending authority or permanent budget authority, and to recommend changes to those authorities from time to time. That clause mirrors the original language of section 402(f) of the Congressional Budget Act, which has since been repealed.
Likewise, two other subsections of Rule X clause 4(a) duplicate specific procedural requirements of the Congressional Budget Act. Clause 4(a)(2) contains the same authority found in section 401(b)(2) of the Congressional Budget Act, which permits a referral to the Committee on Appropriations of bills or joint resolutions the enactment of which would cause a committee’s section 302(a) allocation to be exceeded. Similarly, clause 4(a)(4) contains the same requirement that is found in section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Act for the Committee on Appropriations to subdivide its section 302(a) allocation among the subcommittees of that committee.
Other parts of the Congressional Budget Act place additional requirements on the Committee on Appropriations that are not reflected by corresponding language in the House rules. One such section is section 307 of the Congressional Budget Act. In its original form, section 307 required (to the extent practicable) the Committee on Appropriations to complete action on all annual appropriation bills before reporting any of them to the House, and to provide a summary report comparing the amounts in such bills with the appropriate levels in the most recent concurrent resolution on the budget. In one instance, the Committee filed all annual appropriation bills on the same day to comply with this requirement. After the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings reforms of 1985, however, this requirement was replaced with an overall target of June 10 of each year for the Committee on Appropriations to report all of the annual appropriation bills to the House.
Finally, section 309 of the Congressional Budget Act provides another incentive for the House to complete action on appropriation bills. Pursuant to section 309, it is not in order to consider any resolution providing for an adjournment of more than three days during the month of July if any of the annual appropriation bills have not yet passed the House. This effectively sets a June 30 deadline for the House to complete its consideration of the annual appropriation bills reported from the Committee on Appropriations. However, in practice, the House has frequently not been able to meet this deadline, and has therefore waived this requirement either by unanimous consent or by adopting a special order of business resolution from the Committee on Rules