BUDGET BULLETIN: Enforcing the FY 2016 Balanced Budget Resolution

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Budget Committee today released its July 14, 2015 issue of the Budget Bulletin focused on enforcing the FY 2016 Balanced Budget Resolution approved earlier this year. The Budget Bulletin provides regular expert articles by Senate Budget Committee analysts on the issues before Congress relating to the budget, deficits, debt, and the economy.

Read the full Senate Budget Bulletin here.

Excerpts follow:

In May, a Republican-led Congress approved the first 10-year balanced budget conference report since 2001 (S. Con. Res. 11). Now that the 2016 budget resolution is in place, the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees must ensure that legislation considered in their respective chambers does not violate this significant achievement.

Enforcement authority for the budget flows from sections 201(f) and 312(a) of The Congressional Budget Act of 1974, or Budget Act, which confer upon the two chairmen their roles as the official scorekeepers in their respective chambers. As bills, amendments, and conference reports are considered on the floor, the chairmen evaluate the budgetary effects of the pending legislation with respect to the spending and revenue contours in the budget resolution, and determine whether a violation has occurred.

Points of order fall into two categories: (1) prohibitions against consideration, which, if sustained, immediately end floor consideration of that measure; and (2) surgical-strike points of order targeting a specific provision in legislation, which, if sustained, strike the offending text but leave the rest of the measure standing.

When a point of order is raised against a measure, a proponent of the legislation usually will respond with a motion to waive, an option granted under section 904(c) of the Budget Act. If a motion to waive is successful, which in most cases requires the affirmative vote of 60 senators, the measure remains before the Senate, and debate may continue. Senate precedent permits a single motion by a senator to waive more than one point of order—a global motion to waive. If a global motion to waive garners the requisite number of votes, usually 60, then the underlying measure is effectively inoculated against any additional budget-related points of order.

When a point of order that prohibits consideration of a measure is sustained, debate ceases immediately, but the measure does not die. Rather, it is recommitted to the committee of jurisdiction where it can be considered and amended, if desired. It cannot be offered again from the floor, however, without first correcting the original violation.

Senate budget points of order are not self-enforcing. A member must first be recognized and then raise the point of order. The Senate may consider and pass legislation even if it violates the provisions of a budget resolution if no point of order is made, or an applicable point of order is waived. 

One hallmark of the 2016 budget resolution is the collaborative effort between the Senate and House Budget Committees to address enforcement loopholes that in the past have led to overspending. S. Con. Res. 11 established three new points of order concerning these gaps:

  • Point of Order against Certain Changes in Mandatory Programs (CHIMPS)
  • Point of Order against Provisions that Constitute CHIMPS Affecting the Crime Victims Fund
  • Prohibition on Agreeing to Legislation without a Score


# # #

Related Files