Gulf between authorizations and appropriations hurts programs

Congress promised the neediest college students that they would each receive $5,800 in Pell Grants to help pay their education costs this year. But instead, Congress ponied up only $4,050 per student.

How can Congress give with one hand and take away with the other? As with much of what happens on Capitol Hill, one hand pays little attention to what the other is doing. The 1998 Higher Education Act amendments that reauthorized the Pell Grant program called for providing $5,800 to the neediest students for the 2003-2004 school year. But congressional appropriators set aside only $4,050.

The problem is at least partly systemic. Authorizing committees with expertise in their particular areas write legislation creating programs and calling for certain amounts of money to fund them. Oftentimes, these authorizing bills are approved with great fanfare by members of Congress and the president. The public and the media pay less attention to what happens later in the process, when the Appropriations committees decide how much money to actually spend on programs in the 13 annual spending bills. Appropriators have limited pots of money to divvy up. And much of the time, the money appropriated for a program is far less than the amount first promised.

In the process, key federal initiatives can be stymied. For instance, following the voting problems of the 2000 election, Congress passed the 2002 Help America Vote Act. The legislation promised to provide states $2.16 billion in fiscal 2003 to revamp outdated voting systems, but Congress appropriated only $1.5 billion. The shortfall generated bad publicity, followed by intensive lobbying by election-reform proponents. So, in the pending fiscal 2004 omnibus appropriations bill, Congress provided the full $1.5 billion that experts said was needed to catch up. But Doug Chapin, director of the nonprofit Election Reform Information Project, said the money will come too late to help significantly fix voting procedures for this year's election.

Congress creates an "expectation" when it passes a high-profile authorization bill, said G. William Hoagland, budget and appropriations aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "It has taken on new attention in this day of unfunded mandates," he said. "There are a lot of authorizations that are not funded."

Appropriators contend that authorizing committees promise unrealistic amounts of money, since they don't have to balance funding for their programs against the other priorities that the Appropriations Committees must confront. Authorizers "do a big dog and pony show, but when it comes to the top line, we have open warfare about what the top line will be," James Dyer, staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, told National Journal last year.

Congressional Democrats acknowledge a long-standing disconnect between authorizations and appropriations. But they contend that the gulf between what is promised when programs are created versus the actual funding levels is much wider in the all-GOP government than it was when Democrats ran the show.

"It's spectacularly broader," House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., told National Journal last year. "It has a helluva lot more to do with who leads the House than it does with process." Obey and other Democrats contend that Republicans are prone to slash funding for key programs to keep within conservative budget constraints and to account for the revenue lost from the Bush tax cuts.

Republicans respond that nothing is new. For instance, Congress failed to fully fund the Pell Grants during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 school years, when Democrats were in charge. In addition, while Congress and President Ford enacted a 1975 law pledging to pay 40 percent of the cost of programs to educate disabled children each year, that goal has never been reached. In fiscal 2003, the federal government provided only 18 percent of all special-education funds.

This election year, Republicans are sure to tout passage of the 2002 No Child Left Behind education law, which called for reforms such as student testing and better teacher training. But Democrats complain that Republicans haven't lived up to the promised funding levels.

Democrats contend that the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill shortchanges the No Child Left Behind Act by some $7.5 billion. "Republican-passed legislation abandons those promised resources, and the impact on students and teachers is devastating," House Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller, D-Calif., said in a report last month.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., went even further, telling The Washington Post last month that Bush "clearly" lied to Democrats who supported the bill. "The president had indicated not only to me, but to [other Democrats], that we would have not only reform, but the funds to implement it," Kennedy told the newspaper.

But Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Education Committee, disputed the Democrats' claim. "There was never any discussion about fully funding to the authorized levels," Boehner said on the House floor in December. "The commitment was to adequately fund our efforts to renew American schools."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.