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The Inside Scoop on Appropriations: Where does the money come from?

22 November 2007
Written by

If you've been paying attention to the national press, you've probably noticed that there have been delays for the funding bills for our government. Here's the scoop on how our government's funding is supplied.

All funding for the United States Government is supplied via appropriations bills. Appropriations bills cannot create new government programs; they only provide funding for programs that already exist. New government programs must be created in other bills. Often, these programs are created in authorization bills. Authorization bills set out guidelines and limits on how much money can be appropriated to programs, and they can also create new programs, but they do not actually appropriate any money. An example of a recent authorization bill and its corresponding appropriations bill is HR 1585, the authorization bill for the Department of Defense, and the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Defense, this year HR 3222.

All appropriations bills originate in the House, as required by the U.S. Constitution. It is not uncommon, however, for the Senate to write their own bill, after which the House and Senate go into a conference to solve their differences. There are 12 annual appropriations bills. Their bill numbers change every year (for instance, the annual appropriations bill funding the Department of Defense is not HR 3222 every year), but the bills fund the same program areas from year to year. There is always the same single annual appropriations bill that funds the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year that is HR 3074. There is always the same annual appropriations bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. This year that is HR 3043.

Not all appropriations bills are passed every year. Sometimes a program area will need more funding than has been supplied to it. In this case, Congress may pass a supplemental appropriations bill. HR 4156 is an example of a supplemental appropriations bill.

The annual appropriations bills are meant to fund the government for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts October 1. Because most of the annual appropriations bills have not been enacted into law yet this year, the government has had to pass continuing appropriations. An example of a measure doing this is H J Res 52. This is a joint resolution. Basically this measure continues funding for a limited period of time so the government can work on passing the regular appropriations bills.

There has been much disagreement this year between the Congress and the President about how much funding the government needs for each area this year. This is the biggest reason that most of the appropriations bills have not been enacted yet this year. Because of the very short time before the end of the calendar year, there is a possibility that all of the appropriations areas that have not been funded by an annual bill may have all of their funding passed in one very large bill in an unusual maneuver to get the funding passed in a hurry.

To see a list of all bills this year that contain appropriations, click here. Their statuses are also provided. This link takes you to a site maintained by the Library of Congress.

Good day, Informed Voter, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Related tags: appropriations-bills, blog

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