Dewonkify – Appropriations

The Word: Appropriations

Definition: The designation of money for a particular use, such as for a federal program.

Used in a sentence: “Levin said sequestration could be altered if Congress passes a budget and appropriations bills through regular order for the new 2014 fiscal year, but standalone legislation voiding sequestration seems unlikely, he said.” From Politico, “DOD Furlough 2013: Departments to Start Sending Notices Thursday,” March 18, 2013.

History: The House first created a separate Appropriations Committee in 1865 and the Senate followed suit in 1867. In the House, appropriating duties were previously handled by the Committee on Ways and Means (which had been created in 1789). In 1789, Congress passed one general appropriations bill that distributed $639,000. The legislation covered 13 lines of printed statute. When the House Appropriations Committee was created, there were 10 separate appropriations bills while the original Senate Appropriations Committee divided appropriations into 13 areas. Until recently, appropriations consisted of programmatic requests, requests for language in the Committee reports stating support for programs or issues, and earmarks (money directed toward specific projects rather than governmental programs). In 2010 the House banned earmarks; the Senate has unofficially followed suit.

What it means: Just because funding for a program is included in the President’s Budget or funding is authorized in a piece of legislation does not mean that the program will be funded. That is just the first step in gaining funding; the Senate and House Appropriations Committees must allocate funding for money to actually reach a federal program. Each chamber has an Appropriations Committee that is broken down into twelve subcommittees, each of which has jurisdiction over a specific area of federal funding (such as Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education or Commerce, Science, and Justice). The Appropriations Committees must develop a bill, mark it up, conference with the other chamber, and pass their measure by the beginning of each fiscal year (October 1st), pass a continuing resolution or face a government shutdown. The President’s Budget serves as a guide to the Appropriations Committees. The Appropriations Process provides an opportunity for advocates to weigh in with their policymakers on programs and issues of interest and influence funding levels.

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