Approving the U.S. Federal Budget

Congress and the President Must Approve Each Annual Spending Bills

House and Senate Work Out Differences in Conference Committee
Since the spending bills are once again being debated and amended separately, House and Senate versions will have to go through the same conference committee process as the Budget Resolution. The conferees have to agree on one version of each bill capable of passing in both the House and Senate by a majority vote.

Full House and Senate Consider Conference Reports
Once the conference committees have forwarded their reports to the full House and Senate, they must be approved by a majority vote.

The Budget Act stipulates that the House should have given final approval to all of the spending bills by June 30.

President May Sign or Veto Any or All of the Appropriations Bills
As spelled out in the Constitution, the President has ten days in which to decide: (1) to sign the bill, thereby making it law; (2) to veto the bill, thereby sending it back to Congress and requiring much of the process to begin again with respect the programs covered by that bill; or (3) to allow the bill to become law without his signature, thereby making it law but doing so without his express approval.

The Government Begins its New Fiscal Year
If and when the process goes as planned, all the spending bills have been signed by the president and have become public laws by October 1, the start of the new Fiscal Year.

Since the federal budget process rarely runs on schedule anymore, Congress will usually be required to pass one or more “Continuing Resolutions” authorizing the various government agencies to continue operating temporarily at existing funding levels. The alternative, a government shutdown, is not a desirable option.