As Congress returns from its two-week recess, budget issues will be at the top of the agenda. We will be hearing a lot about the President’s budget, the Congressional Budget resolution, and appropriations bills. These terms are frequently used together, though each of them has a distinct purpose and role to play in the budget process.
The President’s Budget is a detailed request for budget authority for every federal program. It is not binding on Congress, which under the Constitution has the power to appropriate funds. The Budget Resolution establishes funding levels to guide Congress as it considers spending and revenue legislation. It is not signed by the President and does not have the force of law.
While the budget resolution includes an overall spending allocation to the Appropriations Committee, the Budget Committee does not decide the specifics of which accounts or agencies will receive the funding. That is done by the Appropriations Committees (and other committees that receive allocations). An appropriations bill is binding legislation that is signed into law by the President.
Shortly after Congress returns, the House and Senate Budget Committees will hold “mark-ups” which are business meetings that the committees use to consider the annual budget resolutions. The Budget Act requires action on the Budget Resolution to be completed by April 15, though there is no penalty for missing the deadline and it is rarely met. (According to the Congressional Research Service, since the timetable was established in 1974, Congress has met the budget resolution deadline only six times, most recently in 2003.)