A budget primer for White House budget week

By Josh Hicks
Washington Post
April 8, 2013

The White House is expected to release its 2014 budget proposal on Wednesday, laying out the president’s vision for how Congress should structure taxes and spending.
Budgeting for the federal government is a complex and multi-layered process that bears little resemblance to the kind of financial planning most Americans do at their kitchen tables. The following is a primer on how the annual process works.

The White House role
Current law requires the president to submit a budget request before the first Monday in February, although several administrations — including the current one — have missed the deadline by several weeks.

Such proposals amount to little more than a wish list for Congress to consider while drafting budget measures. Congress has the real power to control funding levels, and that begins with the House and Senate passing budget resolutions.

Budget resolutions do not require the president’s signature, and they do not carry the force of law. They simply set spending parameters for broad categories of government, guiding Congress’s appropriations committees during the next phase of the budgeting process.

Congress’s role
That next phase involves the House and Senate developing a series of appropriations bills to fund specific government programs.
The two chambers eventually have to work out the differences in their separate appropriations bills to come up with unified legislation. Once that happens, the president can sign the reconciliation bill into law.

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