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Enactment of a Law

The Congressional Budget Process

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act was enacted in 1974 as a means for Congress to establish national budget priorities and the appropriate level of total revenues, expenditures, and debt for each year. Moreover, it provided for strict time limits in dealing with Presidential attempts to impound funds already appropriated either through deferrals or rescissions.

The Act has been amended so as to curb the practice of imposing unfunded Federal mandates on States and local governments, as well as to give the President line item veto authority with respect to appropriations, new direct spending, and limited tax benefits. There has also been added to the statutes a provision allowing the two Houses of Congress to vote in an expeditious manner to reject rules issued by executive agencies.

Congress acts on a concurrent resolution on the budget in the spring of each year. This resolution sets levels of new budget authority and spending, revenue, and debt levels. However, Congress may adopt a later budget resolution that revises or reaffirms the most recently adopted budget resolution.

One of the mechanisms Congress uses to enforce projected budget authority and spending, revenue, and debt levels is called the reconciliation process. Under reconciliation, Congress in a budget resolution directs one or more legislative committees to report bills or recommend changes in laws that will achieve the levels of spending and revenues set by the budget resolution. The directions to the committees specify the total amounts that must be changed but leave to the discretion of the committees decisions about the changes that must be made to achieve the required levels.

If only one committee has been directed to recommend changes, that committee reports its reconciliation legislation directly to the floor for consideration. If, however, more than one committee has been directed to make changes, the committees report the recommended changes to the Committee on the Budget. That committee then reports an omnibus reconciliation bill to the floor for consideration by the whole Senate or House.

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