The Center for Legislative Archives

The Senate Committee on the Budget

A Brief History of the Committee

Since 1789, Congress' responsibilities have included overseeing federal government spending. As federal government spending grew, it became increasingly difficult for Congress to effectively monitor the budget, and the legislative branch steadily lost power over budgeting to the president. In 1973, spurred by President Richard M. Nixon's impounding billions of federal dollars appropriated by Congress, legislators established procedures to monitor the budget process and restrict presidential impoundment authority. The following July, Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-344) which created the Senate Committee on the Budget, whose sole focus is the federal budget process, and the Congressional Budget Office, Congress' budget "scorekeeper."

The law mandated the committee to comply with reporting requirements established under titles III and IV of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974; to continually study budget outlays of existing and proposed legislation and report the results of these studies to the full Senate; to evaluate studies of tax expenditures, devise methods of coordinating expenditures with budget outlays, and report these results to the full Senate; and to maintain oversight of the Congressional Budget Office. Senator Edmund Muskie (D-ME) was the committee's first chairman (1974-1980).

During the 105th Congress (1997-1998), the Senate Budget Committee's legal staff compiled a committee print entitled The Congressional Budget Process: An Explanation. This publication outlines the federal government budget process before and after passage of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

Records of the Committee, 1974-1984 (230 feet)

The committee maintained several series of standard committee publications (12 feet): selected published hearings, reports, and prints covering the 93rd - 96th Congresses (1973-1980); committee prints from the 94th -98th Congresses (1975-1984); budget resolution conference reports from the 94th - 100th Congresses (1995-1998); selected printed House and Senate bills referred to the committee during the 96th - 99th Congresses (1979-1986).

There are also several publications directly related to the budget process and the committee's mandate. Scorekeeping reports are prepared for the Senate by the Congressional Budget Office pursuant to Section 302 of the Budget Act and are usually updated weekly. The reports compare the status of the budget to the congressional budget resolution currently in effect. The core of the scorekeeping reports is the table for each Senate committee showing the relationship of their budget actions to the current congressional budget resolution. The committee's collection of scorekeeping reports covers fiscal years 1976-1979. The committee maintained a bound set of "March 15 Reports," reports submitted by each Senate committee with recommendations and estimates for budget items under its jurisdiction for fiscal years 1976-1978.

The committee also maintained a series of published volumes of the Budget of the United States, 1976-1986. The records of the 97th Congress (1981-1982) include six boxes of the printed final report of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government (the Grace Commission).

Bills

There are several series that deal with individual bills (41 feet): legislative subject files, bill files, and concurrent resolution files. Legislative subject files, arranged by subject, include a printed version of each bill; published material such as pages from the Congressional Record, reports, and committee prints; Congressional Budget Office correspondence and reports; budget statistics; and hearing background materials. The files cover the 94th - 95th Congresses (1975-1978).

Bill files, arranged by bill number and covering the 94th - 96th Congresses (1975-1980), are comprised of committee publications, internal memoranda, press clippings, floor statements, and agency correspondence. This series, like the other legislative files series, does not include hearing transcripts. Topics include the Tax Reform Act of 1976 (H.R. 10612, 94th Congress), the Emergency Agriculture Assistance Act of 1978 (H.R. 6782, 95th Congress), the Energy Tax Act of 1978 (H.R. 5263, 95th Congress), the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Budget Growth Act of 1978 (H.R. 50, 95th Congress), and the Windfall Profit Tax Act (H.R. 3919, 96th Congress). The records from the 96th Congress (1979-1980) are unarranged.

Concurrent resolution files for fiscal year 1978, arranged by resolution number, include records created in preparation for hearings, OMB estimates, memoranda, roll call votes, statements, conference reports, hearing briefing books, and an update on 1978 legislative activities. This series also includes "crosswalks," the budget authority and outlays in the Budget Resolution that are allocated among the Senate committees.

Requests for waivers under section 402(c) of the Budget Act can be included in the legislative files, but are filed in a separate series (4 feet) for the 95th and 97th Congresses (1977-1982).

Staff Files

There are four major series of staff files that supplement the legislative files discussed above:

Legislative Files of Richard Brandon (20 feet), who served on Senator Lawton M. Chiles' (D-FL) staff, is one of the most voluminous series maintained by the committee. The series, covering the 94th - 97th Congresses (1975-1982), includes correspondence; statements before the committee; questions for witnesses; printed bills and reports; drafts of Senator Chiles' floor statements and correspondence; statistics regarding the budget; journal articles, press clippings, briefing books, and notes on topics such as inflation, airport noise reduction, defense, the space shuttle, international affairs, health, nutrition, food stamps, and taxes.

Subject Files of Lance Simmens (6 feet) cover the 96th - 100th Congresses (1979-1998). They include floor statements, memoranda, agency reports, newsletters, and Congressional Research Service issue briefs on a variety of subjects including social security, illegal aliens, tax cuts, transportation, and veterans' issues.

Legislative Files of Charles Flickner (10 feet), international affairs analyst, span the 96th - 98th Congresses (1979-1984) and include printed bills and reports, press clippings, journal articles, memoranda, floor statements, Congressional Research Service issue briefs, and newsletters covering such topics as arms control, bilateral assistance, food, trade negotiations, and the international economy. The series is arranged by subject through the first six boxes, then by bill or public law number in boxes seven through thirteen, then returns to a subject arrangement for the last seven boxes.

The committee maintained a series of transcripts of the speeches of G. William Hoagland, the committee's staff director. This series is dated 1980 through 1990 and includes transcripts of speeches Hoagland gave after he joined the staff of the Congressional Budget Office. Topics pertain to such items as the reduction of poverty, fiscal policy in the 1990s, and the impact of the Gramm-Rudman Hollings Act.

Miscellaneous Series

Several miscellaneous series comprise the bulk of the remainder of the committee's records:

Subject files (26 feet), also called policy issue files, include records on water resources, committee organization and personnel, the White House anti-inflation plan, the international economy, the Panama Canal Treaty, urban policy, tax reform, agriculture, and the judiciary. The series covers the 93rd - 97th Congresses (1973-1982).

Since the 94th Congress, the committee has maintained a number of documents that detail its legislative processes. These include mark-up books (15 feet) containing core documents preparatory for mark-up sessions, floor books detailing activities relating to a bill on the Senate floor, background books providing more details than the mark-up books on individual budget proposals, and briefing books containing information for hearings. The 96th Congress includes a box of mark-up transcripts for the first concurrent resolution for fiscal year 1980.

The records of the 95th - 97th Congresses contain a series of printed floor votes (3 feet) arranged chronologically. A subject and chronological index are included for each session. The committee maintained a collection of print-outs of legislative histories of each bill acted on by the Senate Budget Committee in the 96th and 97th Congresses. The history includes the bill number, date introduced, report numbers, sponsors, committees referred to and reported by, proposed amendments, all legislative actions, and in the case of large bills, an abstract and digest.

In the 95th Congress (1977-1978), the committee established a series of legislative memos (3 feet) outlining the status of particular bills, describing their contents and costs, offering possible amendments, and providing staff recommendations. Frequently the memos have draft floor statements attached. Since the 96th Congress, the legislative memos series includes memos that address procedure, summarize action and votes on budget measures, and pose questions and answers. By 1981, the series no longer contains memos with a common content and structure; it serves as a general file for staff memos. By that time, the legislative memos are no longer exclusively found in this series; they also appear in series of appropriations bills and subject files.

To improve the committee's understanding of issues and to educate the public during the first two years of its existence, the committee held public hearings, called seminars. These seminars were arranged by the task forces established within the committee to address particular issues. The records of the 94th Congress (1975-1976) include the records of the Capital Needs and Defense Task Forces (1 foot). The Capital Needs Task Force records include seminar transcripts, while the records of the Defense Task Force do not.

Outgoing correspondence (1 foot), filed alphabetically by last name of recipient, is a staple of the committee's records in the 94th and 95th Congresses.

The committee's press releases (3 feet) are available through the 96th Congress.

The committee's History File (3 feet) includes mark-up transcripts for S. 1541 (93rd Congress), the Senate's version of legislation to reform congressional procedures with respect to enacting fiscal measures. Those interested in this bill should also consult the mark-up transcripts covering the 93rd - 95th Congresses for the November 1973 transcripts.

The History File also includes documents regarding the implementation of PL 93-344, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, studies of impoundment, deferrals and rescissions, a study of the budget and inflation in 1974, documentation of the worsening economic conditions in 1974-75, and President Ford's attempts to improve the economy. Early executive communications are included in this series as well as OMB monthly reports of rescissions and deferrals with analysis by the committee, files on the House's investigation of the Congressional Budget Office pursuant to H.Res. 988 (94th Congress), statements and speeches of Chairman Muskie, files on the Temporary Select Committee to Study the Senate Committee System, analysis of the president's FY 1981 budget, the committee's budget for 1981 and 1982, and Social Security Reform memos from 1982. A related box contains a bibliography of the establishment and activities of the Senate Budget Committee.

The records analyzing the president's budget include the implication of the budget in terms of its effect on the economy, the president's revenue proposals, including taxes, and various spending issues. The analysis is accompanied by various tables illustrating such data as functional allocation of funds and federal aid to state and local governments.

While the committee has no standing subcommittees with legislative jurisdiction, it does create temporary subcommittees to address specific issues. The Subcommittee on Industrial Growth and Productivity (96th Congress) is the only subcommittee whose records are filed separately (3 feet). The records include correspondence, memoranda, hearing briefing books and transcripts, research materials, and Congressional Research Service reports.

The Center for Legislative Archives does not hold a series of unpublished committee hearings. Hearings appear incidentally among various legislative series, but very few are preserved in the records.

Related to the records of the Senate Budget Committee is a collection of papers of Sidney Brown, longtime committee staff member. his unprocessed collection (50 feet) includes committee publications, memoranda, and federal budget statistical records.

Senate Budget Committee Chairmen Since 1974
U.S. Senate Website Resources
Bibliography of the Senate Committee on the Budget
  • Thurber, James A., and Samantha L. Durst. "The 1990 Budget Enforcement Act: Zero-Sum Budgeting and the Decline of Governmental Accountability." In Congress Reconsidered. Edited by Lawrence C. Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer. 1993.
  • Rubin, Irene S. The Politics of Public Budgeting: Getting and Spending, Borrowing and Balancing. 2d ed. 1993.
  • White, Joseph, and Aaron Wildavsky. The Deficit and the Public Interest: The Search for Responsible Budgeting in the 1980s. 1989.
  • Wildavsky, Aaron. The New Politics of the Budgetary Process.2d ed. 1992.

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