Implementing the Presidential Budget

By: Wesley Walker[1] and Thomas Bailey[2]

In the wake of the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, many rumors have arisen as to what the President’s agenda will be in regard to the setting of the budget. On February 27, part of President Trump’s initial budget was announced proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending and a “corresponding cut in what his administration deems lower priority programs” White House officials announced.[3] But, to what extent does the President have authority in the allocation of funds, while Congress possesses the “power of the purse”?

The Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall “have the power to lay and collect taxes . . . and provide for the common defense and General Welfare of the United States . . . .”[4] Although the Constitution provides the power for the spending of taxpayer money, there is no set way in which these powers can be exercised.[5] As such, the role of the President was unclear until the enactment of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. This act created the Bureau of the Budget and placed it under the Department of the Treasury.[6] Additionally, this Act required the President to submit a budget for the Federal Government.[7] In 1974, the process was further refined with the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.[8] As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan put it, “concerns with executive power, coupled with rising levels of government spending and borrowing, again fueled calls for a comprehensive approach to the congressional budget process. Legislative mistrust of the President emboldened Congress to challenge executive-branch recommendations.”[9] This act established a clear statutory basis for congressional overview of the Presidential budget and provided for the yearly adoption of a budget that setup a framework for congressional budgetary decision-making.[10] Lastly, the Act established the House and Senate Budget Committees (HBC and SBC respectively) and created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).[11] The HBC, SBC, and CBO all provide budgetary information and analysis to Congress without influence of the executive branch.[12]

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is the Executive agency that aids the President in creating the budget for the implementation of the administration’s policy goals. President Trump’s announcement and submission of the full budget to Congress will provide much fodder for some, and much excitement for others. Each President is lauded and ridiculed upon the announcement of the budget, as taxpayers are given full access to the plans and policies an administration finds important by seeing what their administration seeks to fund. At the President’s directive, the OMB structures the budget in accordance with the goals of the administration. Based upon Trump’s appointments to Heads of Bureaucracies[13] and statements from the White House,[14] there likely will be a sharp decrease in the funds allocated for government regulatory agencies, and a sharp increase in military spending as indicated by the February 27 budget leak.[15]

Although the President must submit a budget to Congress for review, the budget itself is a guideline for Presidential policies, which Congress will alter and implement to fit their own needs. With the Republicans controlling both congressional houses and a Republican President, this fiscal cycle for the United States could be as sweeping as the 111th Congress, which saw the passage of the Affordable Care Act,[16] better known as Obamacare. With the impending release of the budget on February 28th, we will likely see an increased spending in the Department of Defense, and reduced spending in the areas of social policy, welfare, and bureaucratic regulation.


[1] Candidate for Juris Doctor, Cumberland School of Law, 2018; Bachelor of Arts, University of Alabama 2014.

[2] Candidate for Juris Doctor, Cumberland School of Law, 2018; Bachelor of Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville 2015.

[3] Jacob Pramuk, Trump’s first budget proposal will call for $54 billion increase in defense spending, CNBC Politics (Feb. 27, 2017 9:37 AM), http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/27/trumps-first-budget-proposal-will-call-for-54-billion-increase-in-defense-spending.html.

[4] U.S. Const. art. I § 8.

[5] Id.

[6] Library of Cong., Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, (Aug. 14, 1995), http://lcweb2.loc.gov:8081/ammem/amrlhtml/dtbudact.html.

[7] Staff of H. Budget Comm. 112th Cong. on The Federal Budget Process (Written by Current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) at *1, (December 7, 2011), http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bprhistory.pdf.

[8] Id. at *2.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13]The New York Times, Donald Trump’s Cabinet is Taking Shape. Here’s the Latest List. (Feb. 20, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/politics/donald-trump-administration.html?_r=0.

[14] See Generally Office the White House Press Secretary, Statements and Releases, (Feb. 26, 2017), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-and-releases.

[15] Pramuk, supra note 1.

[16] Obamacare Facts, http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacarebill/ (last visited Feb. 27, 2017).

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