June 27, 2012 | White Paper on Budget and Spending
Both the House and the Senate are proceeding with appropriations, the annual spending measures due by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Appropriations, which make up about one-third of the federal budget, are “discretionary” spending, meaning they require annual legislative approval. By contrast, mandatory or “direct” spending—the kind that funds government entitlement programs—runs on autopilot. This year’s Heritage Foundation Appropriations Tracker will follow the developments with regular updates.
As the tracker shows, to date the full House has passed five of the 12 regular spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2013 and has five more ready for floor action. None has passed in the full Senate, although the Appropriations Committee has passed nine of their bills, which are ready for the floor.
These appropriations are an annual requirement for the two bodies to fund most government agencies. The process is slightly more complicated this year, however, because the Senate has not passed a budget resolution and is writing its bills to total $1.047 trillion, the upper limit established in last year’s debt ceiling agreement, the Budget Control Act. The House, by contrast, has passed a real budget resolution that holds total appropriations to no more than $1.028 trillion.
In addition, both chambers are exploiting a loophole that allows additional “disaster relief” spending beyond the cap level. These funds are for weather events that are already passed and therefore should be included under the regular cap. The Senate has provided $6.7 billion of this excess funding so far, the House $5.5 billion.
Both the House and the Senate also provide $96.7 billion for “overseas contingency operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The tracker will be updated regularly to show the status of each bill—how it is progressing through the legislative process—and the spending amount approved for each. The amounts for each bill are compared to several other levels. The first comparison is to FY 2008, the last year before the Obama-era stimulus-and-bailout spending binge. The second is the levels enacted for the current year, FY 2012, which ends September 30.
The third comparison is to the levels that the Appropriations Committees proposed for each bill earlier this year. (These amounts are known as “302(b) allocations,” for the section of the Congressional Budget Act that requires them.) In the House, these amounts are based on the House budget resolution and add up to slightly less than the $1.028 trillion total. In the Senate, these allocations add up to the $1.047 total.
As these bills move through the legislative process, check here to monitor their progress.