Civics – Funding Government

Discretionary spending

Discretionary spending is debated through the annual budget and appropriations process and funds programs such as education, veterans, infrastructure and defense. Discretionary programs equal only 27% of all federal dollars allocated each year when Congress sets the funding priorities. In 2016, close to 16% of the federal budget went to fund the National Defense, so other discretionary spending was only approximately 11% of the$3.85 trillion budget.

Congressman Thomas Massie, from Kentucky, on Government Shutdowns

How does a small faction of Congress take government spending hostage and demand legislation unrelated to the funding bill?

Is this how the funding process is supposed to work?

How do we avoid this in the future?

Why is it important to pass separate appropriation bills for the various portions of the government?

Congressman Thomas Massie answers those questions and more in this short video! (Created, January 22, 2018)

*Congressional Budget Act is 12 separate appropriation bills to determine how to budget the DISCRETIONARY spending from the federal budget.
*Omnibus is one vote on all of them at once, AKA Continuing Resolution (CR)

Automatic Spending

The rest of the federal budget is ‘automatic spending’, meaning deducted from the federal budget through scheduled payments because the government is legally required to do so. Federal “automatic” payments in 2016 constituted approximately 73% of the budget.

Some examples of “automatic” spending are:

Social Security
Medicare
Medicaid
Obamacare (Affordable Care Act)
Income security programs (e.g. SNAP, TANF, Earned Income Tax Credit)
Interest on the national debt

In the chart below, you’ll see the percentage of the budget broken down by each government program that is deemed ‘automatic’.


~ from the Entitlements brief on the Policy Circle website

Additional information on this subject:

Appropriations 101

Appropriations Watch: FY 2019