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Deem

Definition: When the House and Senate have not agreed to a budget resolution, they may “deem” legislation to act as a budget resolution in order to move forward with the budget and appropriations process.

How it Works: The law governing the congressional budget process, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, calls for the annual adoption of a budget resolution to establish levels of funding. Section 302(a) requires that the aggregate amounts of spending in the annual budget resolution be allocated by committee; this is the overall number the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive to fund the appropriations for that year. Section 302(b) requires the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to divide their allocations by subcommittee. Around Washington, this is literally known as the 302(b) allocation. So, there is a problem when there is no agreed-upon budget resolution. Complicating things, Members of either chamber may raise a “point of order” against legislation that would violate budget resolution policies. In other words, if someone tries to bring up a spending bill, say the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, without an agreed-upon budget resolution and therefore no 302(a) or 302(b) allocation, a Member could object on a point of order. The deeming resolution is how Congress gets around these issues. The deeming resolution simply “deems” or provides the new spending allocations to the Appropriations Committee. According to the Congressional Research Service, “they also may set new aggregate budget levels, provide revised spending allocations to other House and Senate committees, or provide for other related purposes. A deeming resolution may even declare that a budget resolution (in its entirety), passed earlier in the session by one chamber, is deemed to have the force and effect as if adopted by both chambers.” A deeming resolution is a simple resolution requiring only the majority of votes in the chamber to pass and become effective.

History: Since the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, Congress has failed more than a few times to finalize a budget and has used deeming resolutions to “deem” funding allocations.