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The Federal Budget Timeline & Process

by John Haughey, FiscalNote

The federal budget has an official timeline, but it doesn't always go according to plan. Learn the steps & processes for how the budget is created and approved!

Every year, federal agencies, the White House's Office of Management and Budget, and Congress work on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs from October 1 through September 30. It is a complicated and confusing process. However, one that advocacy and government affairs teams have to follow closely to make sure their public policy agenda and issues are represented fairly. 

14 Steps in the Federal Budget Process Timeline

It’s rarely adhered to, but there is a formal timeline for the appropriations process, as determined by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

If things went according to plan every year this is what the federal budget process timeline would look like:

1. Federal Agencies Submit Proposals (Early Fall)

Federal agencies, which have been engaged in internal budget planning for at least six months — as much as 18 months before the fiscal year begins — submit their proposals to the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

2. OMB Reviews Agency Budget Proposals and Submits Them to the President (November)

The president then determines what the administration will support. The OMB notifies agencies of the President’s directives and guidance via what’s known as “passbacks,” issued around Thanksgiving.

3. Agencies Submit Their Final Requests to the OMB (December)

Incorporating revisions, agencies submit their final requests to the OMB, which forwards them to the President, who may or may not include them in the President’s budget request to Congress due in February.

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4. President Traditionally Outlines Budget Priorities in the State of the Union (January)

The President traditionally outlines budget priorities in the State of the Union Address.

5. President Submits the Budget Request to Congress (First Monday in February)

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires the President to submit the budget request to Congress by the first Monday in February.

6. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Submits Analysis to Budget Committees (Feb. 15)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) submits its analysis of the President’s budget request to the House and Senate budget committees, with emphasis on long-term fiscal and economic outlooks.

7. Senate Budget Committee Submits “Concurrent Resolution” on the Budget (April 1)

This is a precursor to Congress’s budget resolution.

8. Congress to Pass its Budget Resolution (April 15)

The deadline for Congress to pass its budget resolution to guide decision-making for 12 appropriation subcommittees, which begin hearings on specific proposals that can last into the summer. Authorizing committees also address potential changes to mandatory spending or tax laws. Committees submit bills to respective chambers for adoption, eventually forming a comprehensive budget.

9. House Begins Formally Approving Annual Appropriation Bills Drafts (May 15)

House begins formally approving annual appropriation bills drafts by appropriation and authorizing committees.

10. House Appropriations Committee Submit Last Annual Appropriation Bill to Committees (June 10)

The deadline for the House Appropriations Committee to submit its last annual appropriation bill to committees.

11. Congress Adopts “Reconciliation Legislation” if Required (June 15)

The deadline for Congress to adopt “reconciliation legislation” if such measures are required by the budget resolution approved in April.

12. House to Approve Annual Appropriation Bills (June 30)

The deadline for the House to approve annual appropriation bills. In practice, this rarely occurs.

13. President Approves or Vetoes Within 10 days (September)

There is no deadline for Congress to submit its final proposed budget to the President other than a Constitutional mandate that the President must either approve or veto it within 10 days of receiving it. A veto means the process must start again.

14. New Fiscal Year Begins With or Without a Budget (Oct. 1)

If a budget has not been adopted, Congress passes a continuing resolution (CR) to ensure federal agencies have the money to operate – as it did for the FY 2018 budget – or it allows the government to “shut down,” meaning all non-essential programs close and workers are furloughed.

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