The Federal Budget process begins the first Monday in February of each year and should be concluded by October 1, the start of the new Federal Fiscal Year. In some -- make that most -- years, the October 1 date is not met. Here is how the process is supposed to work.
The President Submits a Budget Proposal to Congress
Following the procedure required by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the President presents a budget proposal for the coming Fiscal Year to Congress on or before the first Monday in February.
Based on the input of the federal agencies, the president's budget proposal projects estimated spending, revenue, and borrowing levels broken down by functional categories for the coming fiscal year to start October 1.
The president's budget proposal serves as a "starting point" for the Congress to consider. Congress is under no obligation to adopt all or any of the President's budget and often makes significant changes. However, since the President must ultimately approve all future bills they propose, Congress is often reluctant to completely ignore the priorities of the President's budget.
House and Senate Budget Committees Report the Budget Resolution
The Congressional Budget Act requires passage of an annual "Congressional Budget Resolution", a concurrent resolution passed in identical form by both House and Senate, but not requiring the President's signature.
The Budget Resolution is an important document providing Congress an opportunity to lay out its own spending, revenue, borrowing and economic goals for the coming fiscal year, as well as the next five future fiscal years. In recent years, the Budget Resolution has included suggestions for government program spending reforms leading to the goal of a balanced budget.
Both House and Senate Budget Committees hold hearings on the annual Budget Resolution. The committees seek testimony from Administration officials, Members of Congress and expert witnesses. Based on testimony and their deliberations, each committee writes or "marks-up" its respective version of the Budget Resolution.
The Budget Committees are required to present or "report" their final Budget Resolution for consideration by the full House and Senate by April 1.