Cyclopedia of Congressional Budget Law

Elastic Clause


The elastic clause of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 an important provision established in section 301(b)(4) of the act , authorizes the budget resolution to “set forth such other matters, and require such other procedures, relating to the budget, as may be appropriate to carry out the purposes of this Act.” This is a general purpose clause that allows a budget resolution to include a variety of budget matter, including important rule making provisions which may alter the application of or add to the standing rules of the House or Senate.

The elastic clause allows the budget resolutions to include material other than that provided for by section 301 (CBA), which lists specific items. 

The “elastic clause” permits the inclusion of other matters or procedures deemed appropriate to carry out the “purposes” Congressional Budget Act of 1974, though it is limited by section 301(g) of that Act which provides that any reconciliation instructions included in a budget resolution must not affect Social Security.

The purposes of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 are set out in section 2 of the Act, and may be seen to be broadly phrased. They include:

  • Assuring the effective congressional control over the budgetary process;
  • Providing for the congressional determination each year of the appropriate level of Federal revenues and expenditures;
  • Providing a system of impoundment control;
  • Establishing national budget priorities; and
  • Providing for the furnishing of information by the executive branch in a manner that will assist the Congress in discharging its duties.

Description from the Explanatory Statement (House Budget Committee) 1975

The following description of the elastic clause was included in a committee print which acted as a Joint Explanatory Statement of Managers on the Committee of Conference:

“Congress may devise any other procedure relating to the budget process and prescribe its implementation for the coming fiscal year.

“It is intended that the authority to prescribe “any other procedure which is considered appropriate to carry out the purposes of this Act” applies only to the specific procedures for the enactment of budget authority and spending authority legislation for the coming fiscal year and not to the jurisdiction of committees, the authorization of budget authority, or to permanent changes in congressional procedure.”

[Joint Explanatory Statement on the Committee of Conference on H.R. 7130(Committee Print), Committee on the Budget, House of Representatives, 93d Congress, 2d Session, Washington D.C. 1975.]

Early Example Related to Budget Window

Congress used the authority provided by the elastic clause of the Budget Act to adopt three-year budget resolutions for the period covering the second budget resolution for FY1980 through the FY1986 budget resolution. The practice of including three fiscal years was formalized by the 1985 Deficit Control Act.

Description rom CRS Report (2008)

Under authority referred to as the “elastic clause” (in Section 301 of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act), either chamber may include procedural provisions in the annual budget resolution that are consistent with the purposes of the 1974 act. The two chambers reached final agreement on the FY2008 budget resolution on May 17, 2007, by agreeing to the conference report on S.Con.Res. 21 (H. Rept. 110-153; May 16, 2007), by a vote of 214-209 in the House and 52-40 in the Senate. The budget resolution made various changes in budget enforcement procedures applicable to the House and Senate.

CRS – Federal Budget Process Reform in the 110th Congress- A Brief Overview (RL33818) Updated May 28, 2008


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