How Congress appropriates

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report on the congressional appropriations process. The report covers the following:
  • annual appropriations cycle
  • types of appropriations measures
  • spending ceilings for appropriations associated with the annual budget resolution
  • relationship between authorization and appropriation measures
The annual appropriations cycle begins when the president submits his annual budget to Congress. Congress then adopts a budget resolution, considers appropriation measures, votes on the bills, and if passed, sends them to the president for his signature or veto.

The types of appropriations measures are 11 regular appropriations bills, continuing resolutions (to maintain temporary funding if a regular appropriations measure is not enacted by the deadline), and supplementals for additional funds or for unforeseen needs such as disasters.

The budget resolution covers at least five fiscal years. For each year, it sets the total budget and allocates spending among 20 functional categories (such as national defense, transportation, etc.).

Authorization and allocation measures are considered in sequence. Authorizations establish, continue, or modify agencies or programs. Appropriation measures then give these agencies and programs their budgets.

The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction , CRS Report 97-684 (pdf, 32pp/176kB, from Open CRS), December 8, 2006

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