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House Appropriations Committee Through the Ages

Delegates sign the Constitution, which states that, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.— For the next eight decades, the Ways and Means Committee handles most appropriations bills in the House.

Executive branch departments begin submitting annual spending reports to Congress. The federal government shifts its budget year from a calendar year to a fiscal year that begins on July 1.

The House creates the Appropriations Committee to approve annual spending bills. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (R-Pa.), the former Ways and Means chairman, becomes the first Appropriations chairman. In its first year, the nine-Member panel appropriates a total of $536 million.

Then-Rep. James Garfield (R-Ohio) becomes chairman of the Appropriations Committee, a position he will hold for the next four years. Garfield becomes the 20th president in 1881.

The committee loses jurisdiction over many appropriations measures — including agriculture, defense, post office and water navigation issues — to authorizing committees.

Rep. Edward Taylor (D-Colo.) sponsors a resolution that requires appropriators to relinquish their other committee assignments. Until this time, many senior appropriations also served simultaneously on as many as four other panels.

The United States enters World War I, and the federal budget explodes to nearly $19 billion.

House Appropriations Chairman J. Swagar Sherley (D-Ky.), who has a reputation for tightly holding the federal purse strings, returns more than $15 billion to the Treasury in recoveries from World War I appropriations.

The Appropriations Committee is reorganized and given full jurisdiction over all appropriations, including those responsibilities it lost in 1885.

The Budget and Accounting Act requires the president to submit to Congress an annual budget for the federal government.

Congress approves $49 billion in Army funding for fiscal 1945, bringing cumulative spending on World War II and defense activities to $390 billion since June 1940. A 2008 Congressional Research Service report pegs the direct military costs of World War II at $296 billion ($4.1 trillion adjusted for inflation).

With the creation of a new transportation subcommittee, the number of Appropriations subcommittees stabilizes at 13. This alignment remains largely the same until 2003.

The Congressional Budget Act creates the Congressional Budget Office, setting the parameters under which Congress adopts a budget resolution, and in turn sets limits on revenues and spending.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) becomes chairman of the Appropriations Committee for a year before Republicans win the House majority.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security is created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent creation of the Homeland Security Department.

Then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) pushes for the reorganization of the Appropriations Committee, in part to protect NASA funding. The number of Appropriations subcommittees shrinks from 13 to 10.

Obey once again becomes chairman of the Appropriations Committee after Democrats gain control of the majority. Along with then-Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Obey expands the Appropriations Committee to 12 subcommittees in order to provide similar subcommittee structures between the two chambers.

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