Bipartisan Budget Acts
The Budget Control Act and its Progeny
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (112th Congress) set out a convoluted budget process by which discretionary and direct spending were to be controlled for a ten-year period. The architecture of the law was unwieldy and cumbersome with certain procedures made contingent on the enactment of a deficit reduction law. When this did not occur, the discretionary spending limits it had established through fiscal year 2021 were automatically replaced by a new set of annually recalculated limits, one for defense spending and one for everything else . Section 302 (BCA 2011) put these “revised” limits in a new section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.
The limits for fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014 were raised the following year by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (112th Congress), but the byzantine structure was left in place. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Pub. L. 113-69) was enacted a year later, raising the limits for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, but also cleared out some of the clutter in the text (by no means all). The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (Pub. L. 114-74 Congress) raising the limits for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-123) did the same for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and finally, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (Pub. L. 116-37) finished the original ten-year period set by the BCA 2011 as it began, by raising the limits for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.