Đang chơi bàiEach year, Congress works on a federal budget for the next fiscal year. The government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 of one year to September 30 of the next. The budget includes a detailed spending plan.
The Constitution puts Congress in charge of the budget, granting it the power to collect taxes, borrow money, and approve spending.
How does the government get money? Where does it go?
Most government money comes from:
Collecting taxes, or revenue, from people and businesses
Đang chơi bàiBorrowing it by selling Treasury securities (savings bonds, notes, and Treasury bills)
The government spends money on:
Social Security, Medicare, and other mandatory spending required by law
Interest on the debt--the total the government owes on all past borrowing
Discretionary spending, the amount Congress sets annually for all other programs and agencies.
Creating the budget, step by step
Departments and agencies submit proposals
Đang chơi bàiAbout 1 ½ years before a budget goes into effect, agencies start work on their proposals. These go to the White House to help create the President’s budget request.
The President submits his plan
Đang chơi bàiTypically by the first Monday in February, the President gives Congress his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The House of Representatives and the Senate create budget resolutions
Đang chơi bàiEach chamber of Congress analyzes the President’s budget proposal and drafts a budget resolution setting overall spending levels. A conference committee of House and Senate members resolves differences between the two plans to create a final version that each chamber votes on.
Appropriations committees distribute funding
House and Senate appropriations committees divide the discretionary spending portion of the budget resolution among 12 subcommittees. Each subcommittee oversees a different group of agencies, like Interior and Environment or Transportation and Housing. The subcommittees draft appropriations bills setting the funding for each agency.
Chambers vote on appropriations bills
Đang chơi bàiThe full House and Senate vote on their bills. Both versions of each bill go to a conference committee to merge the two. Both chambers vote on the same version of each bill. If approved, it goes to the President.
The President signs the bills into law.
Đang chơi bàiIf any appropriations bill is not signed by September 30, the government will not have a budget for the new fiscal year.
Without a budget, many government services stop
With no budget, Congress must pass a continuing resolution to fund the government temporarily. Otherwise, the government will shut down, and many functions will stop.
If Congress can’t agree on 12 separate appropriations bills, it can pass an Omnibus bill that includes multiple funding areas. If the President signs that, the budget becomes law and goes into effect.
Annual Funding Areas
The annual budget covers :
Federal agency funding, called discretionary spending—the area Congress sets annually. Discretionary spending typically accounts for around a third of all funding.
Interest on the debt, which usually uses less than 10 percent of all funding
Funding for Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, and other spending required by law. This is called mandatory spending and typically uses over half of all funding.
The Complex Role of Congress in the Budget Process
For agencies and their programs to be funded, Congressional authorization committees must pass, and the president must sign, giving agencies the legal authority to fund and operate their programs. Normally, without authorization, an agency or program cannot receive annual appropriated funding.
Đang chơi bàiAuthorization is not tied to the same schedule as the budget appropriations process; programs can be authorized at any time of year on an annual, multi-year, or permanent basis.
Congress’s first task in the annual process is to pass a budget resolution creating a framework and setting overall spending limits. As , its two chambers—the Senate and the House of Representatives—each draft their own budget resolution. , and each chamber votes on the identical resolution.
Đang chơi bàiThe for each chamber divides the amount allotted for federal agency funding between . Each subcommittee is in charge of funding for different functions of government, such as defense spending, energy and water, and interior and environment, and for the agencies involved.
Đang chơi bàiThe subcommittees conduct hearings with agency leaders about their budget requests and draft appropriations bills setting the funding for each. The full House and Senate vote on their bills, merge both versions of each one, and vote on the identical version of every bill. Each one, if passed, .
Budget Completion or Government Shutdown
If Congress passes, and the president signs, all 12 bills by September 30—the last day of the current fiscal year—the country has a new budget in time for the start of the next fiscal year. If Congress can’t agree on 12 separate bills, it can pass an Omnibus bill with funding for multiple areas. If the budget is not completed by the new fiscal year, Congress must pass a continuing resolution authorizing temporary funding at the previous year’s levels or face a government shutdown.
Đang chơi bàiIn the event of a shutdown, the government stops issuing passports, closes national parks and monuments, halts NASA operations, and puts many other functions on hold.
Đang chơi bàiWhen the budget process is finally complete or Congress passes a continuing resolution, the government resumes normal operations.
Federal Budget by Fiscal Year
Đang chơi bàiTo see the approved federal budget for a year, you must look at the appropriations bills for that year that were signed into law.
Go to the on Congress.gov.
Click the year you want to see.
A chart will open. Scroll down to find various versions of budget legislation in it. To identify which budget legislation in the chart actually became law, look in the chart under the far right column titled "Public Law" for a Pub.L. number that was assigned to the legislation when it passed.
The Deficit, the Debt, and the Debt Ceiling
When the amount of money the government collects in taxes and other revenue in a given year is less than the amount it spends, the difference is called . If the government takes in more money than it spends, the excess is called a surplus.
Đang chơi bàiThe deficit is financed by the sale of (bonds, notes, and bills), which the government pays back with interest. Part of what the government spends money on each year is the interest owed on all years’ deficits combined, or . Get statistics and learn more about the deficit and national debt from .
Đang chơi bàiThe is the maximum amount of debt the government allows itself to hold. Congress can vote to raise the debt ceiling. If it doesn’t and the debt hits the ceiling, the government won’t be able to borrow any more money and it won’t be able to pay its bills.
Do you have a question?
Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They'll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.
Last Updated: October 10, 2019