Article I § 9 clause 7 of the United States Constitution makes it clear that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” This single sentence provides Congress with the sole legislative authority to allocate money out of the federal treasury. Throughout the years, Congress has fleshed out this power through legislation governing how the appropriations and budgeting process should occur. Although Congress has been granted the constitutional authority to make appropriations, the President and the executive agencies that receive the funds appropriated by Congress have made themselves influential partners in this process, often through purely political means.
Despite the processes that Congress has put in place, the United States is facing a fiscal tsunami should things continue at their current trajectory. One of these budgetary processes put in place by Congress, the supplemental appropriations process, has resulted in increased outlays that avoid the transparency provided through the normal budget process. This paper suggests that Congress should reform the supplemental appropriations process, and proposes a piece of legislation called the Transparency and Accountability in Supplemental Appropriations Act (TASA). TASA would provide increased transparency and political accountability to the supplemental appropriations process. It would do so by creating an Emergency Trust Fund to be included in the regular budget and by requiring that the President’s Budget and the Congressional Budget Resolution include Contingency Allowances representing the level of any supplemental appropriations used to pay for military conflicts during the prior fiscal year. These reforms would allow Congress to lower the impact of the upcoming fiscal tsunami by reducing overall budget costs.
Black, Jonathan, "How to Un-Supplement a Tsunami of Fiscal Proportions: An Examination of the Supplemental Appropriations Process" (2009). Georgetown Law Fiscal Law and Policy Reform Briefing Papers. Paper 4.