KEY TERMINOLOGY IN CONGRESSIONAL SCOREKEEPING
Aggregates: Topline totals for on-budget spending, revenues, and Social Security levels that are included in the congressional budget resolution. Spending aggregates cover a single year due to the Appropriations Committee receiving a one-year allocation. Revenue and Social Security aggregates cover the first fiscal year of a budget resolution and all time periods covered by committee allocations under section 302 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (see Committee Allocations). Aggregates are enforced by section 311 of the Congressional Budget Act.
Baseline: A neutral benchmark based on current law used to evaluate budget plans and legislation. Congressional budget resolutions rely on the baseline constructed by the Congressional Budget Office.
Budget Authority: The authority for an agency to enter into financial obligations. Budget authority is generally the number cited for agency budgets or during discussions on discretionary spending limits, such as those imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Cap Adjustments: Allowable increases in discretionary spending limits for purposes specified in statute. Cap adjustment authority is found in section 251(b) of the 1985 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act. Adjustments serve two purposes: First, they allow the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make changes to enforceable levels when determining discretionary cap compliance, which is enforced through sequestration orders issued by OMB. Second, they permit the House and Senate Budget Committees to modify enforceable spending limits for congressional scorekeeping purposes and determining points of order.
CHIMPs: Changes in Mandatory Programs (CHIMPs) in appropriations bills that change direct spending. The Appropriations Committee often uses CHIMPs to reduce mandatory budget authority in the budget year (the year for which they have an allocation) and then uses the “savings” from the CHIMPs to increase discretionary spending in that same year. Generally, these CHIMP provisions simply delay when the mandatory funding is available to be spent so that there is a budget authority increase in the second year of the budget window, which is not captured by the Appropriations Committee’s allocation (and not subject to congressional budget enforcement).
Committee Allocations: The total budgetary resources (both budget authority and outlays) available to a committee for set time period under the congressional budget resolution. Allocations to the Appropriations Committee are limited to one year – the first fiscal year of the budget resolution. Allocations to authorizing committee cover each of the following periods: the first fiscal year of a budget resolution, the first fiscal year plus the ensuing four fiscal years, and the period of all fiscal years covered by a budget resolution. While the budget resolution establishes each committee’s overall allocation, the Appropriations Committee is unique in that it is responsible for further dividing its allocation among its subcommittees. Committee allocations are enforced pursuant to section 302 of the Congressional Budget Act.
Deficits: The difference between revenue collected and outlays in a given year.
Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund: A reserve fund allows the Chairman of the Budget Committee to adjust the levels in the budget to accommodate legislation this is fully offset. This allows the legislation to avoid points of order that would otherwise lie.
Discretionary Spending: Spending controlled by the Appropriations Committee.
Mandatory Spending: Spending, sometimes referred to as “direct spending,” that is controlled directly by authorizing committees.
On-Budget: All budgetary accounts other than those designated in law as off-budget (see Off-Budget).
Off-Budget: Budgetary accounts designated by law as excluded from budgetary totals, which include Social Security (revenues and spending) and transactions of the U.S. Postal Service.
Outlays: The actual disbursement of funds from the Treasury to liquidate a federal obligation.
Budget Points of Order: A parliamentary tool enforce budget levels and rules. The Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee determines the applicability all numerical points of order for the Senate. Budget points of order can be used to block or change legislation that breaches the budgetary levels in the budget resolution or violates budget protocols.
Senate PAYGO: The Senate’s PAYGO rule prohibits the consideration of legislation that would increase on-budget deficits over the following periods: the current fiscal year; the budget year; the period of the current year, the budget year and ensuing four fiscal years; and the period of all fiscal years covered by the prevailing budget resolution. The Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee maintains the Senate’s PAYGO scorecard and records debits and credits as necessary. The current Senate PAYGO rule is found in section 4106 of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution (115th Congress; H.Con.Res. 71)
Scorekeeper: Chairman of either the House or Senate Budget Committees serves as the official scorekeeper for their respective body. This power is provided in section 312 of the Congressional Budget Act.
Statutory PAYGO: Law (the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010) requiring that all new legislation changing taxes, fees, or mandatory expenditures, taken together, must not increase projected deficits. This deficit-neutrality requirement is enforced through across-the-board reductions to selected mandatory programs after the end of a session of Congress if legislation is enacted that - taken as a whole - results in deficit increases for the budget year. Statutory PAYGO established special scorecards and scorekeeping rules that are discussed in greater detail here.