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Wonkology: President's Budget of the United States Government

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February 3, 2015

Wonkology: President's Budget of the United States Government

The President’s Budget is the budget proposed by the President for the three branches of the federal government, submitted to Congress by the first Monday in February prior to the start of the next federal fiscal year.

A (Political) Love Is In the Air

The Constitution gives all spending authority to Congress. Presidents didn’t even have a formal role in the budgetary process until 1921. The Budget and Accounting Act established the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and requires the President to submit to Congress a budget proposal for the federal government. This is only the second time in seven years that the Obama Administration has submitted its budget on time, with prior budgets up to two months late.

OMB works with various stakeholders to determine appropriate budgetary levels for the forthcoming fiscal year and adjusts them based on administration policy. In addition, preparing a federal budget allows the President to referee any Executive Branch inter-agency budgetary disputes prior to their consideration by Congress.

A Chance For Romance

When submitted to Congress, the President’s Budget includes major proposals and budgetary guidelines as well as expansive supplementary materials that provide program-level budgetary guidance. While the President could simply make top-line recommendations to Congress, the White House and Executive Branch agencies work extensively with Congress to justify their proposed budget, including having agency heads testify before the appropriate committees of jurisdiction.

The final budget is written by Congress and voted upon as a joint resolution; the President does not have the opportunity to sign or veto this resolution. The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees are then expected to use regular order to draft and consider spending bills based upon spending levels in the final budget.

A Broken Heart

Political pundits have already dissected President Obama’s 2016 submission and declared much of it dead upon arrival in the new Republican Congress. Many Republicans have decried the President’s elimination of sequestration by closing tax loopholes without doing enough to target out-of-control spending. If the President and Congress are unable to replace sequestration by the end of this federal fiscal year, approximately $91 billion in budget cuts will be triggered automatically on October 1. Another government shutdown could be in the works, though both parties have declared that it is not in the cards.


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