U.S. Annual Budget Process1

The U.S. annual budget process starts when the President submits a detailed budget request to Congress for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. Signaling the administration’s priorities, the request, which is developed through an interactive process between federal agencies and the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), includes recommendations to Congress on funding levels for federal programs. The request is usually submitted by the first Monday in February, but sometimes the submission is delayed, particularly when a new administration takes office, as is the case today. In addition, when a new administration takes office, sometimes the President submits an initial, abbreviated budget, as was done this year (this was also done at the beginning of both the Obama and Trump administrations), and a fuller more detailed budget later. Once the President submits the detailed budget request to Congress, the House and Senate develop a budget plan, or a “budget resolution,” through their budget committees. After both the House and Senate pass these budget resolutions, a process that generally takes place in March or April, the bills go to the floor, where a conference between the House and Senate resolves any differences within the budget resolution and an agreement between the two houses is made. The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriations process, where House and Senate Appropriations committees set spending totals for federal agencies and programs. Once each appropriations committee sets these amounts and allocations, the bills are considered by the House and Senate, where a conference agreement, which resolves any differences between the two bills, is made. Once a conference bill is passed by both the House and Senate, it goes to the President and is signed into law.

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