It’s rarely adhered to, but there is a formal timeline for the appropriations process, as determined by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
If things went according to plan every year this is what the federal budget process timeline would look like:
14 Necessary Steps in the Federal Budget Process Timeline
1. Early fall: Federal agencies, which have been engaged in internal budget planning for at least six months — as much as 18 months before the fiscal year begins — submit their proposals to the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
2. November: OMB reviews the agency budget proposals and submits them to the President, who then determines what the administration will support. The OMB notifies agencies of the President’s directives and guidance via what’s known as “passbacks,” issued around Thanksgiving.
3. December: Incorporating revisions, agencies submit their final requests to the OMB, which forwards them to the President, who may or may not include them in the President’s budget request to Congress due in February.
4. January: The President traditionally outlines budget priorities in the State of the Union Address.
5. First Monday in February: The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires the President to submit the budget request to Congress by this date.
6. February 15: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) submits its analysis of the President’s budget request to the House and Senate budget committees, with emphasis on long-term fiscal and economic outlooks.
7. April 1: The Senate Budget Committee submits its “concurrent resolution” on the budget, a precursor to Congress’s budget resolution.
8. April 15: The deadline for Congress to pass its budget resolution to guide decision-making for 12 appropriation subcommittees, which begin hearings on specific proposals that can last into the summer. Authorizing committees also address potential changes to mandatory spending or tax laws. Committees submit bills to respective chambers for adoption, eventually forming a comprehensive budget.
9. May 15: House begins formally approving annual appropriation bills drafts by appropriation and authorizing committees.
10. June 10: The deadline for the House Appropriations Committee to submit its last annual appropriation bill to committees.
11. June 15: The deadline for Congress to adopt “reconciliation legislation” if such measures are required by the budget resolution approved in April.
12. June 30: The deadline for the House to approve annual appropriation bills. In practice, this rarely occurs.
13. September: There is no deadline for Congress to submit its final proposed budget to the President other than a Constitutional mandate that the President must either approve or veto it within 10 days of receiving it. A veto means the process must start again.
14. Oct. 1: The new fiscal year begins with, or without, a budget. If a budget has not been adopted, Congress passes a continuing resolution (CR) to ensure federal agencies have the money to operate – as it did for the FY 2018 budget – or it allows the government to “shut down,” meaning all non-essential programs close and workers are furloughed.
Go beyond the federal budget process timeline with our resources below.