Statutory Limits on Total Spending as a Method of Budget Control [July 26, 2011]   [open pdf - 257KB]

"Often when there is dissatisfaction with budgetary levels, budget process reforms are proposed to mandate a specific budgetary policy or fiscal objective. This report focuses specifically on one such budget process reform--the concept of creating a statutory limit on total spending. As discussed in this report, a total spending limit consists of statutory long-term or permanent limits on federal spending coupled with a statutory enforcement mechanism that would make automatic reductions in spending in the event that compliance with the limits is not achieved through legislative action. Such spending limits would comprise any new spending as well as spending that results from previously enacted law. By encompassing all types of spending, and by including a statutory enforcement mechanism, a total spending limit attempts to remedy a perceived limitation of the congressional budget resolution, under which Congress establishes limits on spending in various categories that can be enforced or waived by Congress at its own discretion. […] Statutory limits have been subject to criticism for ceding Congress's 'power of the purse,' targeting spending rather than the deficit or debt, attempting to address a budgetary problem through procedure instead of policy changes that would themselves reduce spending, and for other reasons. This report provides information on the concept of a statutory limit on total spending, including objectives, complications, and criticisms. The report also includes information on the many features of spending limit proposals, which can vary considerably. Lastly, the report provides observations on budgetary controls, similar to statutory spending limits, from an historical perspective."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41938
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Via E-mail
Media Type:
Help with citations