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A Helpful Finding Aid: Appropriation Bills

Every year in September, school begins, the weather cools down, and the federal fiscal year comes to an end.  Congress must pass legislation before October 1 to continue funding the government for the next fiscal year.  Congress has a number of legislative vehicles they can use to fund the government, including appropriation bills, or omnibus legislation, and continuing resolutions.  However, I am not going to go into detail about these types of legislation, but rather use this short post to draw your attention to a very helpful resource for information on appropriation legislation.

The link is titled “Appropriations Bills,” and leads to a chart that is organized according to the federal fiscal year, October 1 to September 30.  The chart covers appropriation legislation for fiscal years 1998 (October 1998 to September 30, 1999) to the present (which currently is the upcoming fiscal year, 2014–October 2013 to September 30, 2014).  The chart for 1998 is quite simple, with links to the appropriation bills, House and Senate reports, conference reports and final laws.  For 1999, there is a list of discrete appropriation bills along with a link to the conference report for the Omnibus Appropriation Conference Report for 1999.  Conference reports are an important source of information for appropriation legislation–they often include more detailed information than the bills themselves including program funding within departments as well as directives and limitations about budgeting and spending from Congress. 

Beginning with fiscal year 2000 (October 1, 1999 to September 30, 2000), the chart provides additional information.  Links to both House and Senate versions of proposed legislation are included, and the votes in subcommittees and full committee are listed along with links to committee reports and votes on the legislation in each chamber.   Links to conference reports are also included, along with conference report votes, and of course, links to the law.  In addition, footnotes have been added to the chart, which are designed to help the user navigate and understand the process, as well as to direct the user to additional links in the Congressional Record or other documents.  For example for fiscal year 2000, footnote N tells us that on September 28, 1999, President Clinton vetoed the proposed District of Columbia Appropriations Bill.  His reasons for this veto can be found in House Document 106-135 and are also printed in the Congressional Record.  Indeed, looking at the chart and the footnotes, there were a number of disagreements between the President and Congress that were embodied in vetoes–seven continuing resolutions to fund parts of the government and one final Consolidated Appropriation law, which provided funding for the District of Columbia,  the Commerce, Justice, Labor, Education, Health and Human Services and State departments, among other agencies.

This chart, which will continue in Congress.gov, is one of our more invaluable legislative aids.  However, if you have additional questions about the appropriation process, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

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