Ask the Wonks: How Can the Senate Do That?

Doesn't the House have to pass a budget?

Posted May 12, 2016 at 5:00am

If the House hasn’t passed a budget, how can the Senate do appropriations bills? Isn’t the House supposed to go first?
The Senate has jumped in front of the House due to the bipartisan budget agreement adopted last year .  

In the Senate, the agreement allowed Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., to set forth spending levels for the 2017 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 without the chamber first adopting a budget resolution.  

That’s a bit unlike the House, where the work has continued on trying to figure out a budget package.  

A budget is more of a blueprint, so the appropriations bills are what will really govern discretionary spending, with the Senate using shells of House-passed spending bills from the current fiscal year that never became law as the legislative vehicles for the measures.  

That’s how, at least in the second session of a Congress, the Senate is well within its power to step in front of the House, without running in to pesky constitutional feuds.  


Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter at@nielslesniewski.

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