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What Is a Budget Resolution?

The resolution sets the stage for establishing a federal budget, which in turn decides how government operations are funded for the coming year.
Both chambers of the U.S. Congress must approve a budget resolution by a simple majority.
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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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A budget resolution is a legislative document issued by the United States Congress that sets into motion the legislature's responsibility for establishing the federal budget. This is one of the main steps along the path of funding the expenses and activities of the US government. The budget resolution process uses strict rules and procedures involving different committees and government agencies.

The creation and approval of the federal budget requires the passage of a concurrent resolution. This means that approval for the measure needs to be secured from both the House of Representatives and the Senate by simple majority. Unlike a bill or joint resolution, however, a concurrent resolution does not need to be approved by executive authority. In terms of the budget resolution, this simply states that the House and the Senate have agreed to act on behalf of the government in securing the necessary funds for the budget.

Prior to the creation of the budget resolution, the President of the United States submits the federal budget request to Congress. Traditionally, this occurs on the first Monday in February. The Executive Office spends the months leading up to this working to determine how much money all the federal agencies and departments need. Specifically, the Office of Management and Budget creates proposals and studies showing how much funding the government needs to continue operating for the following fiscal year.

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After the President submits his proposal, House committees and Senate committees work separately to establish the budget resolution. They add to and modify the President's content, eventually deciding on a budget that will work for the members of both houses. Representatives and Senators responsible for the budget procedure then meet to complete the reconciliation process. This requires negotiation on both sides in a conference committee. Once this is done, Congress produces a conference report, outlining the need for appropriation bills, laws that authorize the government to spend money.

The laws that mandate the budget resolution process were first established through the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. It was heavily overhauled in 1974 with the passage of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. Over the years, additional modifications such as the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 were made. The main purpose behind these laws were to define the time frame and process of the budget system as well as keep the federal debt and deficit under control.

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