Order Code 98-511 GOV
Updated March 5, 2001
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Consideration of the Budget Resolution
Bill Heniff Jr.
Consultant in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Consideration of a concurrent budget resolution is governed by special procedures
in the House and Senate. Although the procedures of each chamber differ, they serve
generally to expedite consideration of the budget resolution.
Initial Consideration in the Senate
The Congressional Budget Act (CBA) of 1974 (P.L. 93-344), as amended, outlines
the congressional budget timetable in Section 300, and sets April 1 as the date the Senate
Budget Committee should report the budget resolution to the Senate floor. Once on the
floor, the budget resolution is considered under rules set forth in Section 305(b) of the
CBA. To expedite the consideration of the budget resolution, the rules limit the amount
of time for debate and prohibit certain amendments and motions.
Debate on the initial consideration of a budget resolution, and all amendments,
debatable motions, and appeals, is limited to not more than 50 hours. Generally, the time
allotted for debate on a budget resolution is equally divided between, and controlled by,
the majority leader and the minority leader or their designees, usually the chair and ranking
minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. Section 305(b)(5) of the CBA
prohibits debate on any motion further limiting debate. After opening statements, up to
four hours may be designated for debating economic goals and policies. Debate on any
amendments is limited to two hours each, equally divided between the mover of the
amendment and the budget resolution floor manager. Any amendment to an amendment,
debatable motion, or appeal is limited to one hour of debate. A motion to recommit may
be debated for no more than one hour. When the Senate considers a budget resolution
that revises a budget resolution already in place (under Section 304(a) of the CBA), debate
is limited to only 15 hours.
These provisions limit the length of debate, but do not limit the offering of
amendments or motions. After the 50 hours of debate has been reached, consideration of
amendments, motions, and appeals may continue, but without debate. The Senate,
however, usually adopts a unanimous consent agreement establishing what amendments
to a budget resolution will be considered. Notwithstanding a unanimous consent
agreement, the rules set forth in Section 305(c) of the CBA prohibit certain amendments
and motions, including any amendment nongermane to the provisions of a budget
resolution; any amendment on economic goals and policies unless the budget resolution
includes economic goals, and the amendment proposes to change such goals and the
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budgetary levels to achieve those goals; and a motion to recommit, unless the motion
includes instructions to report back within a certain number of days, not to exceed three
days that the Senate is in session.
Initial Consideration in the House
In the House, there is no deadline for the Budget Committee to report a budget
resolution to the floor, as there is in the Senate. When a budget resolution is reported to
the House, a highly privileged, nondebatable, and nonamendable motion to proceed to
consider the budget resolution may be offered following a five-day layover period,
counting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays the House is in session.
The CBA sets forth rules regarding House floor consideration of a budget resolution
similar to the Senate provisions, but the House regularly adopts a "special rule"
establishing the amount of time allotted for debate and what amendments will be in order,
superseding these provisions. General debate frequently is limited to about five hours.
The House "special rule" typically has allowed for consideration of only amendments in
the nature of a substitute to the budget resolution. For example, between 1987 and 2000,
48 out of 50 amendments to the budget resolution were amendments in the nature of a
substitute. For further information on amendments to budget resolutions, see CRS Report
RL30297, Congressional Budget Resolutions: Selected Statistics and Information Guide.
Consideration of the Budget Resolution Conference Report
Although the concurrent budget resolution does not become law, it still must be
adopted in identical form by both the House and the Senate. Therefore, once each house
adopts its budget resolution, the differences must be resolved, usually in a conference
committee. The rules, and recent practices, governing the consideration of a conference
report on a budget resolution once again are intended to expedite final action on the floor.
Section 305(c) of the CBA outlines several provisions relating to the consideration
of a conference report on a budget resolution in the Senate. A motion to proceed to
consider a budget resolution conference report may be made at any time, even when a
previous motion to the same effect has been defeated. Debate on the conference report,
and all amendments and debatable motions and appeals, is limited to not more than 10
hours. Any motion or appeal related to a conference report may be debated for no more
than one hour. As with the initial consideration of a budget resolution in the Senate, these
provisions may be superseded by a unanimous consent agreement.
While the CBA includes rules for House consideration of a conference report on a
budget resolution (Section 305(a)(6)), a conference report is regularly considered under
a "special rule," usually limiting the length of debate to one hour.
The CBA, as amended, requires final action on the budget resolution to be completed
on or before April 15. This date, however, is more a target than an enforceable deadline;
there are no procedural penalties if Congress does not adopt a budget resolution by this
date. Congress usually completes action on a budget resolution in May or June.