Under the U.S. Constitution, "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time."
The Budget of the United States is the President’s proposed spending levels for the next fiscal year.
Appropriation Bills are Congress’ response to the President’s proposal. The President submits to Congress a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and Congress after committee hearings and debate generates a series of appropriation bills to allocate funding to the various government agencies and programs. The President must approve these bills in order to fund the Federal Government for the fiscal year.
In the United States, funding the federal government begins with the president’s budget and ends with signed appropriation bills. The budgeting process for the most part begins and ends with the Executive branch.
The entire process is somewhat convoluted.
The basic process goes through the following steps. The Executive Branch develops a proposed budget that it submits to the Legislative Branch which in turn draws up the appropriation bills to fund the government for the next fiscal cycle. The Executive Branch in turn then either signs the appropriation bill and funds that portion of the government or rejects it returning it the Legislature for further consideration. This cycle continues until the government is fully funded. If no agreement is reached by the end of the fiscal year, the Legislature must enact temporary funding measures or risk government shutdown.
While the Constitution grants Congress the power to fund the Federal Government and its programs from the revenues collected, it did not specify the exact budgeting process Congress is to follow. Over time the following process has evolved.
Steps 4 through 7 are reiterative, as Congress and the President work out their differing spending goals with the end result of a fully funded government. If no agreement can be reached by the end of the federal fiscal year in October, Congress must pass temporary funding measures until an agreement can be reached or risk the shutdown of the Federal Government. In recent years relations between the executive branch and the legislative branches have become increasingly adversarial, and the federal government has shut down while the budgeting differences were worked out.
The federal government unlike many others can and does run a deficit budget. The U.S. Government can spend more than it earns in the form of taxes, etc., and has for some time.
Researching federal funding is a matter of locating the appropriate documents, reports, bills, newspaper articles, etc. -- many of which are available online.
Use the following to help locate Federal budget and/or appropriations information:
Background: The Numbers. (Tax Policy Center) General information on revenue streams for the Federal Government.
The Budget. (U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on the Budget)
“Budget Concepts and Budget Process.” Executive Office of the President of the United States, Office of Management and Budget. Analytical Perspectives: Budget of the U.S. Government. D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013, p. 115-139.
Budget Process: Federal Budget 101. (National Priorities Project)
Capital Budgeting. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Budget Office, May 2008
A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget. (U.S. Executive Office of the President)
The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction. Sandy Streeter. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, Updated February 22, 2007.
The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction. Jessica Tollestrup and James V. Saturno. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, November 14, 2014.
The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction. James V. Saturno, Bill Heniff Jr., and Megan S. Lynch. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, November 30, 2016.
The Congressional Budget Process: A Brief Overview. James V. Saturno. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, updated January 28, 2004.
The Executive Budget Process Timetable. Michelle D. Christensen. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, December 5, 2012.
The Federal Budget Process 101. (The American Association for the Advancement of Science - AAAS, Matt Hourihan)
How Congress Works: The Budget Process. (United States Senate)
Introduction to the Federal Budget Process. Bill Haniff Jr., Megan Suzanne Lynch, and Jessica Tollestrup. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, December 3, 2012.
“Party Control and Budget Estimates: A Study of Politics in the Federal Budget Process.” Lara Palanjian. Berkeley Undergraduate Journal. (University of California. eScholarship)
Policy Basics: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
Public Budgeting. (enotes)
Role of the Legislature in Budget Processes. Ian Lienert. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, Fiscal Affairs Department, April 2010.
U.S. Budget and Government Spending: Introduction to U.S. Budget Process. (University of California. Berkeley Library)
U.S. Government Documents Subject Guides & Internet Resources, U.S. Federal Guides: The Budget Process. (Columbia University Libraries. Information Services)