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A Guide to US Federal Budget Process

  • VOA News

FILE - Copies of President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2017 federal budget are displayed by the Senate Budget Committee, Feb. 9, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Here's a look at how the U.S. government's budget is drawn up and approved:

— The process starts with the submission of the president's annual budget request to Congress. Traditionally, this is done on the first Monday in February. The president's budget request details the administration's position on a full range of federal revenue and spending questions for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

— Based on the president's proposal, the budget committees in the House and the Senate each write and vote on their own budget resolutions, which serve as a framework for budget decisions. The resolutions set spending limits but do not decide on specific spending for each program. Each resolution is sent to the floor for a vote.

— The budget appropriations committees in the House and Senate divide the discretionary spending set forth in the budget resolutions among each of their 12 subcommittees. The subcommittees cover different areas of the federal government, such as spending on the military or on energy programs. Each subcommittee conducts hearings in which members pose questions to leaders of the relevant federal agencies about each agency's requested budget. Each subcommittee holds hearings on the programs and then votes on an appropriations bill, abiding by the spending limits set out in the budget resolution.

Once the subcommittee passes a bill, it goes to the full Appropriations Committee. The full committee reviews it and then sends it to the full House or Senate.

— The full House and Senate then debate and vote on appropriations bills from each of the 12 subcommittees. After both houses of Congress pass their versions of each appropriations bill, a conference committee meets to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.

After the conference committee produces a reconciled version of the bill, the House and Senate vote again, but this time on a bill that is identical in both chambers. The reconciled bill is then sent to the president for his approval.

— The president must sign each appropriations bill after it has passed Congress for the bill to become law. When the president has signed all 12 appropriations bills, the budget process is complete.

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