Congressional Budget Office / CBO
Introduction to the Congressional Budget Office
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) principally serve congressional committees with a variety of reports. The Congressional Budget Office assists Congress in understanding the economic and fiscal environment in which it makes laws and in understanding the economic and fiscal consequences of its legislative actions. The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act (P.L. 93-344; 88 Stat. 297–339) created the Congressional Budget Office to serve as an independent, nonpartisan agency to provide budgetary information and analysis for Congress and requires CBO to prepare cost estimates on all public bills.
CBO is a legislative branch agency:
Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office has produced independent, nonpartisan, timely analysis of economic and budgetary issues to support the Congressional budget process. The agency’s long tradition of nonpartisanship is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO analyses do not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses our assumptions and methodologies. All CBO employees are appointed solely on the basis of professional competence, without regard to political affiliation.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explains its nonpartisan role in congressional policymaking as “helping the Congress formulate a budget plan, helping it stay within that plan, helping it assess the impact of federal mandates, and helping it consider issues related to the budget and to economic policy.” CBO’s mandate originated in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Its director is appointed jointly by the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate to a four-year term.
The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028 | Senate Budget Committee
In fulfilling its role, CBO works first and foremost for the House and Senate Budget Committees. Its next priority is service to the four “money” committees—the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which have jurisdiction over the discretionary portion of the federal budget, and the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, which have jurisdiction over taxation and full or partial jurisdiction over programs that are tax-based, such as Social Security and Medicare. It then serves Congress’ authorizing committees, such as the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. CBO handles individual member requests to the extent it can. (In its work with the tax committees, CBO uses revenue projections prepared by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a bicameral study committee without legislative authority.)
In assisting the Budget Committees in preparing the annual congressional budget resolution, CBO prepares economic forecasts and projections, baseline budget projections, an analysis of the president’s budget, and policy options. For most bills reported from committee, CBO prepares a cost estimate. It then tracks those bills and performs scorekeeping, a tabulation of the cumulative impact of congressional spending and revenue decisions. It also performs other economic and budget analyses and prepares policy options, often at the request of a specific committee.
Finally, under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (109 Stat. 48, 2 U.S.C. Chapter 25 – Unfunded Mandates Reform), CBO is required to provide committees with a determination of whether a reported measure contains a federal mandate, make an estimate of the direct costs of the mandate if specific criteria are met, and assess funding provided or needed to cover the mandate’s costs. A CBO document notification service is available.
Also see Appropriation; Cost Estimate; § 4.130 Legislative-Branch Support Agencies, § 6.60 Committee Reports, § 7.10 Key Budget Process Laws, § 8.201, Unfunded Mandates and Congressional Procedures, in Congressional Deskbook.
- Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
- House Budget Committee
- Senate Budget Committee
- House Committee On Appropriations
- Senate Committee on Appropriations
- “CBO’s Activities Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 1996-2000,” CBO Report, May 2001 (56-page PDF)
- “Congressional Budget Office: Appointment and Tenure of the Director and Deputy Director,” CRS Report RL31880 (12-page PDF)
- “Congressional Budget Resolutions: Selected Statistics and Information Guide,” CRS Report RL30297 (47-page PDF)
- “Congressional Oversight,” CRS Report 97-936 (11-page PDF)
- “The Executive Budget Process Timetable,” CRS Report RS20152 (8-page PDF)
- “Introduction to the Federal Budget Process,” CRS Report 98-721 (38-page PDF)
- “Baseline Budget Projections Under Alternative Assumptions,” CRS Report RS22045 (8-page PDF)
- “Baselines and Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process,” CRS Report 98-560 (6-page PDF)
- “Unfunded Mandates Reform Act: History, Impact, and Issues,” CRS Report R40957 (64-page PDF)
- “Uncertainty in Budget Projections,” CRS Report RL30854 (18-page PDF)
- “Mandatory Spending Since 1962,” CRS Report RL33074 (23-page PDF)
- “Discretionary Spending: Prospects and History,” CRS Report RS22128 (8-page PDF)
- The Economic Effects of Financing a Large and Permanent Increase in Government Spending, Congressional Budget Office, CBO Working Paper 57201, March 2021 (42-page PDF)
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing
- Custom Training
- “Federal Budgeting” a Five-Course series on CD
- “Congress, the Legislative Process, and the Fundamentals of Lawmaking Series” a Nine-Course series on CD
The Federal Budget Process 2E
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
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