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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

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

2007 November 22 - Key Votes

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 ...

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