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Unauthorized Appropriations and Expiring Authorizations

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Congressional rept.

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The term authorization is used to describe two types of laws. One is an organic, or enabling, statute, which creates a federal agency, establishes a federal program, prescribes a federal function, or provides for a particular federal obligation or expenditure within a program. That type of authorization may allow a federal agency, program, or function to continue indefinitely or only for a specific period. Such an authorization may provide an agency with the authority to obligate and spend federal funds in the form of direct, or mandatory, spending, or it may simply specify a purpose for which a subsequent appropriation may be made available. This report focuses on the second type of law described by the term authorization a specific provision that authorizes the appropriation of funds generally providing for what is known as discretionary spending to carry out the program or function established in the enabling statute. Such a provision constitutes guidance to the Congress regarding the amount of funding that may be necessary to implement the enabling statute. An authorization of appropriations may be contained in an enabling statute or may be provided separately. Such an authorization may set a specific dollar amount a definite authorization or allow the appropriation of such sums as may be necessary an indefinite authorization, and it may be annual, multiyear, or permanent. House and Senate rules dating from the 19th century contain restrictions on the consideration of appropriations that are unauthorized.2 Whether an appropriation is unauthorized and whether it is a violation of a House or Senate rule are determined by the Speaker of the House or the Presiding Officer of the Senate, respectively, on the basis of advice from the respective House s Office of the Parliamentarian.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science

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