What is the role of Congress in the federal budgeting process?

The role of Congress in the federal budgeting process is significant, as it has the constitutional authority to control government spending and ensure that public funds are allocated in accordance with legislative priorities.

The federal budgeting process involves several key stages, and Congress plays a central role in each of them:

1. President’s Budget Proposal:

  1. Submission:
    • The process begins with the President submitting a detailed budget proposal to Congress. This proposal outlines the administration’s priorities, spending priorities, revenue projections, and policy goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
  2. Budget Committees:
    • Congress reviews the President’s budget proposal, and the House Committee on the Budget and the Senate Committee on the Budget play critical roles in the initial stages of budget consideration.

2. Budget Resolution:

  1. Budget Committees:
    • The House and Senate Budget Committees develop a budget resolution. This resolution sets overall spending and revenue targets for the federal government. It does not have the force of law but provides a framework for subsequent appropriations and revenue legislation.
  2. Congressional Approval:
    • The budget resolution must be approved by both chambers of Congress. It serves as a blueprint for the subsequent appropriations process.

3. Appropriations Process:

  1. Appropriations Committees:
    • The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are responsible for crafting spending bills that fund government agencies and programs. There are 12 appropriations bills, each corresponding to different areas of government spending.
  2. Subcommittee Action:
    • Appropriations subcommittees within each chamber review and mark up the individual bills, determining funding levels for specific programs and agencies within their jurisdiction.
  3. Floor Consideration:
    • The full House and Senate then consider and vote on the appropriations bills. If there are differences between the House and Senate versions, a conference committee may reconcile these differences.
  4. Presidential Approval:
    • Once both chambers agree on final versions of the appropriations bills, they are sent to the President for approval. The President can sign the bills into law, veto them, or allow them to become law without a signature.

4. Oversight and Accountability:

  1. Committee Oversight:
    • Congressional committees, especially the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, conduct oversight to ensure that agencies are using funds as intended and that programs are effective.
  2. Audits and Investigations:
    • Congress may conduct audits, investigations, and hearings to assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of federal programs and agencies.

5. Debt Ceiling:

  1. Legislation to Raise Debt Ceiling:
    • Congress has the authority to set a limit on the amount of money the government can borrow (debt ceiling). When necessary, Congress must pass legislation to raise or suspend the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on existing obligations.


Congress’s role in the federal budgeting process is central to the functioning of the government.

Through the power of the purse, Congress shapes spending priorities, reviews the President’s budget proposal, sets spending targets, and determines the allocation of funds to various government programs and agencies.

The process involves multiple stages and requires collaboration between the House, the Senate, and the President to reach a final budget that funds the government for the upcoming fiscal year.