The president proposes and Congress disposes is a common refrain here in Washington, D.C. each spring when the president of the United States releases the annual budget request, known as the PBR. The media and members of both parties will make much noise in the coming weeks about the president’s overspending, how Republicans want to cut vital programs and why the current deficit situation is unsustainable. 

The reality, however, is that the president’s budget request is just that, a request, because it is the Legislative Branch that actually funds federal programs and directs spending. Congressional hearings began the week of March 20 into the FY2024 PBR, but a resolution is still months off. The House could likely pass all 12 of the government-spending bills by the end of the summer, but the Senate traditionally takes a longer path. 

The last time Congress completed all of its fiscal spending bills by the September 30 deadline was 1996 – and most of us believe that this 26-year streak will extend to 27 straight years when Congress passes an extension this fall to prevent a government shutdown. Just a warning to those watching the headlines and the Congressional fireworks these coming weeks because the real spending fights are still ahead.