Last week Congress passed, and President Obama signed, another continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government for the first seven months of FY 2017. The current CR that was enacted last week will fund the government until April 28, 2017 at FY’16 funding levels giving the incoming 115th Congress time to pass a permanent spending bill. In these modern times of intense partisanship, funding our government has become a difficult legislative task and appropriation deadlines are more often not met leading to months long CR and sometimes government shutdowns.
Every year, Congressional leaders make promises to adhere to “regular order” to follow the budget and appropriations processes to pass all 12 appropriations bills on time. The last time all 12 bills were enacted by the federal government’s October 1 start of the new fiscal year was 1996. Since then most appropriations bills are wrapped up in large omnibus bills and passed many months past the October 1 deadline. While budget and appropriations deadlines are rarely met, an understanding of what “regular order” looks like will help you in your advocacy efforts. Below is a list of the timeline of the budget and appropriations process.
- First Monday in February – The President submits his/her budget request to Congress, kicking off work on the next fiscal year’s federal spending. The President’s budget request is just a guideline for how the White House would like to see the government funded. Congress is under no obligation to take the President’s suggestions.
- February through May – Congressional Appropriation Committees and Subcommittees begin holding hearings on the President’s budget and begin drafting their own budget. As a grassroots advocate, this is the best time during the cycle to have the greatest impact in advocating for your causes in the federal budget.
- April 15 – Is the deadline for Congress to pass a budget resolution. A budget resolution, among other things, sets the discretionary spending limits and sets spending caps for the Appropriations Committees.
- May through July – Congress begins marking-up and passing appropriations bills.
- August – Congress is on it’s annual, month long recess, spending their time working in the district. Staff will work and behind the scenes on appropriations bills. No official work gets done at this time.
- September – Congress returns from recess with only a few weeks to finish up work on appropriations legislation.
- October 1 – The new fiscal year begins and Congress must pass a spending bill or a CR or the government will shutdown.
-- By Jeff Kratz, Contributing Editor, The Sower Group