The Budget Resolution, which is drafted by the House and Senate Budget Committees each year, is an agreement between the two legislative chambers establishing both spending and revenue levels for at least the five upcoming fiscal years, as well as various rules and procedures governing the budget process in the House and Senate.
The President’s Budget Request
After the submission of the President’s budget request, Congress prepares a budget resolution. By law, the budget resolution is considered in an expedited manner in both chambers. Most importantly, it cannot be filibustered in the Senate, allowing it to pass by a simple majority vote. After the House and Senate pass a budget resolution it does not go to the President; it is not actually legislation. The budget resolution is a set of self-imposed guidelines used to govern subsequent Congressional activity and procedures related to taxing and spending legislation. Nevertheless, it is a crucial step in establishing funding levels for education and other government programs. Spending and revenue decisions established in a budget resolution can pave the way for increases in education spending or make increases more difficult with procedural hurdles. The target date for adopting the budget resolution conference report is April 15th, though it is often adopted later. In some years, Congress fails to adopt a new budget resolution altogether.
Mandatory vs. Discretionary Spending
Both mandatory and discretionary spending recommendations in the budget resolution are established through the use of 20 categories, known as “budget functions,” that encompass a general purpose, such as national defense or transportation. Budget function 500 includes funding for the Department of Education as well as other education and training programs housed in other agencies. After Congress passes a budget resolution, all mandatory and discretionary spending levels set in each of the budget functions are allocated to the Congressional committees (such as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee) with jurisdiction over the programs within the functions. Each committee receives one spending allocation (called a 302(a) allocation) for the years covered in the resolution. Proposed legislation that exceeds a committee’s 302(a) allocation could face procedural hurdles during consideration in the House or Senate. These procedural hurdles are included in various federal budget laws and the budget resolution itself.
Total federal revenue levels are also established in the budget resolution. While the resolution does not establish laws that will raise or reduce taxes, the revenue levels in the resolution serve to put forth a “revenue floor.” If legislation is considered by the Senate or House that would cause revenue to fall below the floor in the years specified in the budget resolution, the relevant bill could face additional procedural hurdles during consideration.