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Appropriations Season: The Process Behind Funding the Government

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Monday, March 9, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2020

It’s that time again - groups of all different interests are preparing to flock to the Hill to get in their appropriations requests. Spring is always the kick-off point for the appropriations and budget process to begin for the following fiscal year and it is time to get the ball rolling. 

In February of each year, the President submits a budget request to Congress. It is important to note that the President’s budget is not a binding document and should be thought of as more of a “wish list” than an actual budget. The agencies (which, as a reminder, are headed by a person of the President’s choosing), release their budget requests; the individual House and Senate committees release their views and estimates of what programs within their jurisdictions should be allocated; and, in March, the House and Senate Budget Committees draft budget resolutions, a final product of which is due on April 15. 

The House and Senate generally pass separate budget bills, which set the top-level spending number for the next fiscal year. One thing you might not realize about the budget is that it does not have to go to the President for approval and it is not a law – the budget is the guide that appropriators use in setting appropriations for individual agencies and programs. 

Last year, Congress put into place a two-year budget plan, which governs this year’s budget numbers as well.

During the time that the Budget Committees are beginning their work, the Appropriations Committees, as well as individual Member offices, are accepting requests from groups and constituents to be included in the process. 

This year, WIPP submitted 2021 Appropriations Requests advocating for funding for critical SBA programs that are beneficial for women entrepreneurs, like the Microloan Program and Women’s Business Centers. Our efforts have proven successful the last few years, and we have seen increases in funding for nearly all programs we advocated for.

Read the 2021 WIPP Appropriations Request Letters to the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Committee on Appropriations:

After requests have been submitted, the House drafts its appropriations bills, usually in May or June. There are 12 of these bills that set individual spending levels for individual agencies. They are accompanied by “directives,” that include specific instructions to agencies. The individual bills must be passed out of the Appropriations Subcommittee under which it falls (e.g., the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has jurisdiction over SBA), the full Appropriations Committee, and the full House. The bills can see a number of amendments before they are passed.


Meanwhile, in the Senate, the process is identical; however, under the Constitution, all budget and appropriations measures must originate in the House as all revenue-generating measures must begin there. Once both chambers have each completed their appropriations bills, they must reconcile the differences between the two in what is referred to as Conference. If everything is running on schedule, the Conference should take place in September, right before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

But, as you likely know, everything is not usually running on schedule. More often than not, Congress passes at least one, if not more, continuing resolution (CR), which extends funding at the levels from the previous fiscal year. Passing a CR prevents the government from shutting down while Congressional leaders come to an agreement on the 12 spending bills. Frequently, the bills end up being passed as a package, referred to as an “omnibus,” around the end of the calendar year, sometimes later. 

By that time, it’s time for the whole process to start all over again. The WIPP Advocacy Team will talk through our 2021 Appropriations Requests during the monthly Policy Update webinar on Wednesday, March 11. For questions or comments, reach out to advocacy@wipp.org.

 

 

Tags:  Advocacy  Appropriations  budget 

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Mounting Debt

Posted By Ann Sullivan, Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Recently, I heard Congressman Chip Roy from Texas state that the U.S. accumulates $100 million in debt every hour. That is a staggering, unsustainable number. It begs the question – is anyone in Congress concerned about this mounting debt, given that it is budget season? Does anyone care?

AnnSullivan According to the former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, “Despite rising debt, interest rates have remained low, and a fiscal crisis has not occurred. That is because private demand for business investment has been sluggish in a slow recovery, the Federal Reserve has provided liquidity through its unconventional monetary policy, and financial markets often ignore unsustainable fiscal conditions for an extended time.” He goes on to say: “Now, the imperative must be to develop a political strategy, and, in that context, a narrative, that persuades the broad American public that its economic well-being depends on getting our fiscal house in order.”

Given the absence of a financial crisis, elected officials have not convinced the American public that mounting debt, even to the tune of $100 million an hour, requires action. The place where fiscal policy starts is the Senate and House Budget Committees. Since the Senate Budget Committee just passed their FY2020 budget resolution, it is instructive to note the positioning of both sides. The Republican-controlled Senate Committee lauded the plan as cutting half a trillion dollars in deficits and debt over the next five years. According to the Chair, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Senate Resolution does not increase budget caps put into place in 2011 by the Budget Control Act, thus limiting spending.

In contrast, the top Senate Democrat on the Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said this: “The Senate Republican Budget is immoral and bad economic policy. In almost every instance this budget ignores the needs of ordinary Americans and what the American people want, while at the same time protecting the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country – many of whom are the largest GOP campaign contributors. This is a budget that moves this country rapidly in the direction of oligarchy. It constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the billionaire class.”

The House Budget Committee, controlled by Democrats since January, has not yet announced its deliberation schedule on the FY2020 budget. However, there appears to be disagreement on the levels on non-defense spending among Democrats. The Chair, Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), is pressing to lift the spending caps imposed in 2011, allowing the Congress to spend more money without requiring spending cuts to offset the decreases.

So much for a political strategy. And frankly, so much for public engagement. While some in Congress have sounded the alarm, there appears to be little appetite for making hard choices necessary to reduce the debt.

Meanwhile, while I have been writing this article, the debt just went up another $100 million. Reduction of the debt falls into the same bucket many other issues facing our country drop into—solving problems only when a crisis demands it. Short of a voter groundswell, the debt will keep piling up. You should know where your Congressional delegation stands on this important issue. Are they concerned? Have they proposed any solutions to reducing the debt? Or are they waiting for a financial crisis to force the issue?

It seems to me that asking elected officials for big solutions is a reasonable request. Answers won’t be formulated unless the voters demand it.

Tags:  Advocacy  budget  Treasury 

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more Calendar

7/8/2020
WIPP Policy Update - July 2020

9/9/2020
WIPP Policy Update - September 2020

10/14/2020
WIPP Policy Update - October 2020

11/11/2020
WIPP Policy Update - November 2020

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