I have always liked the month of September. It seems a time of new beginnings, the old back to school excitement and energy, more temperate weather (e.g., “a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness“). But here in the nation’s capital, September is also a month of endings. The end of September marks the end of the fiscal year for the government. This has not always been the case. For many years the government’s fiscal year ran from July 1 to June 30th of the following calendar year. The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act (88 Stat. 297, Pub. L. 93-344) changed that. This law established the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), created standing budget committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, and changed the start of the fiscal year from July 1, to October 1.
As I wrote previously in The President’s Budget, the modern appropriation process really began in 1921 when Congress passed the Budget and Accounting Act (42 Stat. 20) which directed the president to provide Congress with a proposed budget each year. This act also established the Bureau of the Budget which today is the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). After the president submits his budget, the House and Senate appropriations committees hold hearings at which various executive branch officials testify and provide information about the requested funds for their departments and programs. Other parts of the process include the passage of a concurrent budget resolution and authorization legislation. The drafting and passage of appropriation legislation is the last step in a complex process. To help patrons track appropriation legislation, we created the appropriation charts in Congress.gov (which you can subscribe to updates by email).
The appropriation charts in Congress.gov include data that appeared in appropriation charts in THOMAS. However, there were several different formats for the THOMAS chart, including a very brief version in 1999.
The appropriation charts in Congress.gov have been designed to provide information in a consistent format. The charts currently provide information on appropriations for fiscal years 1998-2017 as well as the budget resolutions. Each chart lists the regular appropriation bills which are introduced, e.g., Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Defense. The agencies covered by the regular appropriation bills have changed over the last 20 years, for example until Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, there was no Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.
Each chart lists the regular appropriations bills and the various actions taken. This information will include, as available, dates of subcommittee approvals, committee approvals, committee reports, initial passage, conference committee reports and final passage votes if applicable. As an example of the information which can be found in one of these charts, we can look at the FY2004 appropriation chart. Several of the regular appropriation bills became law including, the Department of Defense appropriations bill. This bill, H.R.2658, was introduced on July 2, 2003 by Rep. Jerry Lewis who was a member of the House Appropriations Committee. The bill was accompanied by House Report 108-187 which provided “an explanation” of the bill. The House passed this bill by a roll call vote on July 8, 2004. The Senate passed this bill on July 17, 2003, but the Senate passed an engrossed amendment, striking out the main text of the House version of H.R.2658 and substituting the text from S.1424. When the House and Senate pass differing versions of the same bill, they then meet in conference if they wish to reconcile the two differing versions. The product of this conference will be a conference report. In the case of H.R.2658, a conference report was issued, House Report 108-283; the report was approved by both chambers on September 24th and 25th; and the DOD appropriations bill became Public Law 108-87, providing funding for the DOD from October 1, 2003 through September 30th, 2004.
However, several of the regular appropriations bills for FY2004 did not become law until after September 30, 2003: for example, the Energy and Water bill did not become law until December 2003, while the Interior and Military Construction bills did not pass until November 2003. In order to fund these, and other, agencies, Congress passed a series of “continuing resolutions” (often referred to as a “CR”) to fund the government. The term continuing resolution can be confusing as it refers to the action taken, the continuation of funding for the government, and not the type of legislation. In fact, a continuing resolution is generally a joint resolution. So for FY2004, there were five continuing resolutions which extended funding for various branches of the government through January 31, 2004. In addition to passing several individual funding bills during this time period, Congress passed a Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. 108-199.
For FY2004, Congress took the Agriculture appropriation bill, H.R. 2673 and used it to appropriate funds for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-State, District of Columbia, Foreign Operations, Labor-HHS-Education, Transportation-Treasury, VA-HUD. The appropriations chart reflects this bill’s status both as a regular appropriation bill and as an omnibus bill. The history of the regular Agriculture bill appears in the chart under the “Regular Appropriations” header. The bill was reported out of committee and then passed by both House and Senate. However, the Senate passed a different version of the agriculture appropriation bill and when the House and Senate met in conference for this bill, they determined to use it to fund not only the Agriculture Department but also other government agencies. The subsequent history of the bill after it becomes a consolidated appropriation bill appears in the chart under the “Omnibus Appropriations” header.
There were also supplemental appropriations in FY2004. Supplemental appropriation bills provide funds for unexpected crises – wars, diseases, natural disasters. If there are no supplemental appropriation bills in a year that header won’t appear in the chart for that year. FY2015 is an example of a year in which there were no supplemental appropriation bills. FY2015 is also of interest because instead of publishing a conference report for H.R.83, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, a Joint Explanatory Statement was published in the Congressional Record. The statement itself makes clear that it should be regarded in the same light as a conference committee report: ” the Act specifies that this explanatory statement shall have the same effect with respect to the allocation of funds and implementation of this legislation as if it were the joint explanatory statement of a committee of conference.”
Of course, the appropriation charts are just an introduction and overview of the information in the bills themselves. You can click on any of the bills listed in the charts and be provided with summary information as well as links to the text(s) of the bill; any committee reports; the actions taken; and the amendments offered.
For any additional questions on Congress.gov, the Congress.gov appropriations or information about Congress, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.