BBA 2018 (Contents)

Compliance with Budget Laws and Rules of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-123), when it was considered by the House of Representatives, was in violation of a slew of Budget Act points of order and rules of the House. In fact, all of the major points of order were required to be waived by H. Res. 734 (115th Congress), the resolution providing  the terms for the debate on H.R. 1892. In other words, when the rule said the bill could be considered “without intervention of any point of order”, it meant that it was waiving a lot of them. 

Section 302(c) of the Congressional Budget Act, which prohibits consideration of a measure until the Committee on Appropriations has made the suballocations required under section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Act. 

Section 302(f) of the Congressional Budget Act, which prohibits consideration of legislation providing new budget authority in excess of a 302(a) allocation of such authority. 

Section 306 of the Congressional Budget Act,  which prohibits consideration of legislation within the jurisdiction of the Committee on the Budget unless referred to or reported by the Budget Committee.

Section 311 of the Congressional Budget Act, which prohibits consideration of legislation that would cause the level of total new budget authority for the first fiscal year to be exceeded, or would cause revenues to be less than the level of total revenues for the first fiscal year or for the total of that first fiscal year and the ensuing fiscal years for which allocations are provided. 

Section 314(f) of the Congressional Budget Act, which prohibits the consideration of legislation that provides budget authority for a fiscal year that exceeds either of the discretionary statutory spending limits. 

Cutgo: Clause 10 of rule XXI, which prohibits the consideration of a bill if it has the net effect of increasing mandatory spending over the five-year or ten-year period. The Senate amendment increases over five years, but decreases over ten years.

Clause 2 and Clause 4 of Rule XXI

Since this bill carries continuing appropriationsdifferent rules apply than would normally were this a “general appropriation” Act. Clause 2 of rule XXI prohibits “legislating” on an appropriation bill, and is violated by virtually all appropriation bills on a regular basis. Clause 4 is a bit less routine, since it prohibits appropriating on an authorizing bill. As an omnibus measure, this bill is as far from the ordinary appropriation process as it gets, and a good example as to how the legislative procedures of budget and appropriation are not working as they designed. 

The rules of the House have identified the need to separate the authorization of programs with the annual spending levels for them since the Appropriation Committees were created in 19th Century. The rules to date uphold that principle, even if the actions by Congress flout it routinely.

The old saying that Congress cannot process itself into fiscal discipline rings true. As with anything that requires discipline, finding strength of character in a heretofore weak-willed institution is necessary.

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-123; 132 Stat. 64; February 9, 2018; H.R. 1892 (115th Congress)

CRS – The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform (R45111) February 21, 2018

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