Congressional Budget & Impoundment Control Act of 1974

Overview of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974

The Congressional Budget Act (CBA) has been the foundation of U.S. federal budgeting since 1974. The Act shifted budgetary control away from the Executive to the Legislature; curbing encroachment of the Office of the President upon the rights and purpose of Congress.[1] The text of the Constitution establishes Congress as the body with controlling power over the federal budget wherein only Congress has the power to levy taxes or borrow against the credit of the U.S.  Article I, Section 9 prohibits the drawing of funds from the Treasury without an appropriation by law.

The Executive Office gained power over a number of maneuvers, beginning in the 1800s to compensate for increased government spending and the ability of congressional committees to line-item manage hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations.  “The increased size of the government combined with the increased presidential powers would be identified by Arthur Schlesinger “Imperial Presidency”.  Eventually, this resulted in fiscal conflict with Congress, in the “Seven Year Budget War” waged by President Nixon until 1974.

Spending in social programs had been on the rise with congressional approval, coupled with an ‘incursion’ abroad in Southeast Asia led to rising deficits. Nixon entered into office inheriting a fiscally troubled government… with the continuing rise in entitlement spending and the lack of sufficient economic growth to sustain an enlarging federal government weighing heavily on the budget.” In his approach to mitigate this issue, Nixon “made decisions which alienated Congress … and his actions greatly contributed to the crisis in the government which eventually necessitated the 1974 act.”[2]

An Act to establish a new congressional budget process; to establish Committees on the Budget in each House; to establish a Congressional Budget Office; to establish a procedure providing congressional control over the impoundment of funds by the executive branch; and for other purposes.[3][4]

Title X of the law, also known as the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, specifies that the President may propose to Congress that funds be rescinded. If both the Senate and the House of Representatives have not approved a rescission proposal (by passing legislation) within 45 days of continuous session, any funds being withheld must be made available for obligation.[5]

Congress is not required to vote on such a proposal and has ignored most Presidential requests thus; effectively removed the historical Presidential power of impoundment, replacing it with a program whereby the president was required to propose to Congress the rescission of specific funding proposals. [6] Many Presidents and government officials have called for more Executive leverage to rescind Congressional spending since implementation of the Act. [7]  I personally believe that the topic of presidential, top-level, impoundment is an important notion to consider, of course, under requisite oversight of appropriately determined ‘checks and balances’.


[1] Wikipedia: Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974;

[2] Lee, Nooree, Harvard Law School Federal Budget Policy, Briefing Paper No. 34; “Congressional Budget and

Impoundment Control  Act of 1974, Reconsidered”

[3] Wikipedia; ibid.

[4] Lee, Nooree;  ibid.


[6] Lee, Nooree;  ibid.

[7] Wikipedia: Impoundment;

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