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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Across-the-Board Rescissions in Appropriations Acts: Overview and Recent Practices

Jessica Tollestrup
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

As the annual appropriations process draws to a close each fiscal year, Congress and the President often must come to an agreement not only on the level of funding for individual items or accounts but also with regard to the total amount of discretionary budget authority that will be provided for that fiscal year. If that agreed-upon amount requires a reduction in budget authority and sufficient reductions are not associated with individual programs, an alternative method to reduce that amount is an “across-the-board rescission.”

A rescission is a provision of law that cancels budget authority prior to when it would otherwise expire, making it unavailable for future obligation. An across-the-board rescission cancels budget authority that first becomes available in the upcoming fiscal year for multiple accounts simultaneously to achieve a certain amount of savings. This type of rescission targets accounts in an entire bill, or a portion of a bill, by making cuts to those accounts according to a specified formula.

The statutory structure and basic elements of across-the-board rescissions have been highly consistent in recent practice. At a minimum, such provisions contain a formula that specifies the rate, coverage, and level of application for the reduction. This formula may be accompanied by other provisions that provide exceptions to that formula and that require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees the dollar amount of reductions that were implemented.

Between FY2008 and FY2013, across-the-board rescissions occurred in four of six fiscal years; no such rescissions were carried in appropriations acts for FY2009 or FY2010. The four appropriations acts during this period with across-the-board rescissions were either omnibus or full-year continuing appropriations acts; no supplemental, interim continuing resolutions, or regular annual appropriations acts contained across-the-board rescissions. The coverage, rate, and estimated aggregate dollar amount of reductions of these rescissions varied considerably during this period. Most recently, in FY2013, some of the reductions in P.L. 113-6 affected certain discretionary accounts in five of the appropriations acts included therein, while other reductions covered all discretionary accounts funded by the act. The total amount of budget authority reduced pursuant to the FY2013 across-the-board rescissions was in excess of $2.3 billion.

This report provides information on the main components of across-the-board rescissions and recent practices between FY2008 and FY2013. The Appendix to this report contains the text of all across-the-board rescissions enacted between FY2008 and FY2013. Information on acrossthe- board rescissions prior to FY2008 is contained in the CRS Report RL32153, Across-the- Board Spending Cuts in End-of-Session Appropriations Acts, by Robert Keith.

Date of Report: September 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R43234
Price: $29.95

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