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Appropriations Season

Funding the federal government takes multiple steps. First, the President releases a budget, which is his blueprint for federal spending. If all goes according to plan, Congress drafts and passes a budget outlining allocations for broad categories of federal funding (i.e. health, defense, foreign affairs). The Congressional budget does not need to be signed by the President, and Congress may or may not include the President’s wishes in its budget. After the Congressional budget sets broad funding numbers, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive those allocations and begin drafting the twelve appropriations bills that become law and actually fund the government agency by agency.

Under regular order, appropriators take a deep dive and fund specific programs across the federal agencies through 12 appropriations bills. Members of Congress can submit their requests or priorities for federal funding in a letter to each appropriations subcommittee. These requests are how a Member of Congress relays their priorities and what they think funding levels should be for specific programs – the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or NIDDK program for instance – or report language to be included in the committee report that may provide Congressional direction to an agency. Each subcommittee has a deadline for requests from Members of Congress. To inform their requests to the subcommittees, each Member of Congress has their own earlier deadline for constituents and organizations to make their case for funding priorities, which may or may not make it in the Member’s request to the Subcommittee. Hundreds of internal decisions are made regarding which requests to submit to the relevant subcommittees and which requests will not be considered.

The President releases his budget sometime between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. The deadline for Members letters to the subcommittee range from March-April. The time in between the President’s budget and request deadlines in known as Appropriations Season in Washington, D.C.