Impoundments (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms


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Any action taken by the executive branch that delays or precludes the obligation or expenditure of budget authority appropriated by Congress. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was enacted after frequent use of impoundments by President Richard Nixon. In addition to creating the budget process currently used, the 1974 law established procedures for congressional approval or disapproval of temporary or permanent impoundments, which are called deferrals and proposed rescissions. Not all delays in obligating funds are deferrals. Sometimes obligation delays are due to legitimate programmatic reasons or the result of outside forces not under the agency’s control; for example, an agency administering a grant program receives no grant applications so no grants can be made.

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The comptroller general, head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reviews all proposed rescissions and deferrals and advises Congress of their legality and possible budgetary and program effects. The comptroller general also notifies Congress of any rescission or deferral not reported by the president. The comptroller general may also reclassify an improperly classified impoundment. In all cases, a notification to Congress by the comptroller general has the same legal effect as an impoundment message of the president. The president’s impoundment messages, as well as the comptroller general’s reports, are printed as House documents (H. Doc. ___). The GAO also issues its reports separately.

Also see Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974; Deferral of Budget Authority; Deferrals; Rescission; Congressional Procedure, Ch. 7.B.; § 7.150 Impoundment: Deferrals and Rescission, in Congressional Deskbook.






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