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The "Deeming Resolution": A Budget Enforcement Tool

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Publication Date: August 2004

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Topic: Banking and finance (Public finance)


"Deeming resolution" is a term that refers to legislation deemed to serve as an annual budget resolution for purposes of establishing enforceable budget levels for a budget cycle. A deeming resolution is used when the House and Senate are late in reaching final agreement on a budget resolution or fail to reach agreement altogether. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires the annual adoption of a budget resolution establishing aggregate levels of revenues, spending, the debt limit, and the surplus or deficit, as well as allocations of spending. Enforcement of the budget resolution relies primarily upon points of order and reconciliation procedures. With regard to the enforcement of budget aggregates and committee spending allocations, the major points of order are found in Sections 311 and 302 of the act, respectively.

The term "deeming resolution" is not officially defined, nor is there any specific statute or rule authorizing such legislation. Instead, the use of a deeming resolution simply represents the House and Senate employing regular legislative procedures to deal with the issue on an ad hoc basis.

The form and content of a deeming resolution is not prescribed, so it may be shaped to meet the particular needs at hand. For example, the House and Senate have used simple resolutions as the legislative vehicle in the past, but a deeming resolution may be incorporated into a bill, such as an annual appropriations act, as a single provision. At a minimum, deeming resolutions provide new spending allocations to the Appropriations Committees, but they also may set new aggregate budget levels, provide revised spending allocations to other House and Senate committees, or provide for other related purposes.

For FY1999, the first year that the two chambers failed to reach final agreement on a budget resolution, the Senate adopted two deeming resolutions (S.Res. 209 on April 2, 1998, and S.Res. 312 on October 21, 1998) and the House included deeming provisions in two resolutions dealing with other subjects as well (H.Res. 477, adopted on June 19, 1998, and H.Res. 5, adopted on January 6, 1999).

In the absence of a budget resolution for FY2003, the House on May 22, 2002 adopted a deeming provision in H.Res. 428, a special rule for H.R. 4775, a supplemental appropriations act. The Senate did not adopt a deeming resolution during the session. In a related action, the Senate extended certain expiring budget enforcement provisions by adopting S.Res. 304 on October 16, 2002.

On May 19, 2004, the House adopted the conference report on the FY2005 budget resolution. A special rule providing for consideration of the conference report, H.Res. 649, adopted earlier that day, included a "deeming resolution" provision in Section 2 that put the budget policies in the conference report into effect. A "deeming resolution" provision for the Senate was included as Section 14007 in the conference report on H.R. 4613, the Defense Appropriations Act for FY2005, which President Bush signed into law on August 5, 2004, as P.L. 108-287.