An audio version of this post is available.
As the Biden Administration gets going, you might hear talk about the President’s Budget. What is the President’s Budget and does it matter?
Each year, the President submits a Budget to Congress that outlines their spending priorities. These signal their policy priorities too. For instance, you will see significant investments on climate change initiatives in the Biden Budget. Because they want to show a balanced budget, often other agency budgets will be reduced – even if they may not support it – because they know that Congress won’t do that. A recent example is significant reductions to the NIH and CDC proposed budgets.
As you hear about the Budget, keep these truths in mind:
- Congress DOES NOT vote on the President’s Budget. It is the official suggestion to Congress for spending for the following fiscal year. But it is just a suggestion.
- The Budget is a messaging document. The President and his Cabinet, members of Congress, and groups use what is or is not included in the Budget to move their agenda, stop something they don’t like, or motivate their members to be involved.
We work to keep the Budget in its proper perspective and to use the appropriations process in Congress to secure our Fragile X research funding priorities.
That brings us to Congress and appropriations.
One-third of federal spending is called non-mandatory. That means Congress sets the spending levels each year – this is called appropriations. Our Constitution mandates that all spending originates in the House of Representatives. Congress passes legislation setting the spending levels and the President signs or vetoes the whole bill. There are 12 appropriations bills – each one covers multiple agencies that are generally related. We focus on the Defense and the Labor-HHS bills.
The Appropriations Committees start their work in January. Individual members can submit their requests for spending into the Committees in March and April (the deadlines vary by the subcommittee and the year). We gather together for our Advocacy Day in late February-early March to ensure we have plenty of time for our Congressional supporters to gain additional support and submit a join request to the Committees.
In theory, the bills are signed by the President before October 1, which is when the new fiscal year starts. If they are not, Congress has to provide temporary funding, called a continuing resolution, or the agency has to stop work (aka “government shutdown”).
Our Advocacy Day this year is February 24, 2021. It is virtual, which we hope will be a pandemic positive and allow more advocates to attend and more from states that often aren’t represented because it is both hard to travel to DC and/or have less population. Please join us!