, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 313-334

The first decade of the Congressional Budget Act: Legislative imitation and adaptation in budgeting

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The influence of institutions on budgetary behavior at the federal level is the subject of this article, which examines the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. While its impact on budgetary priorities and growth seems modest at best, the Act has had a substantial impact on the process of budgetary decisionmaking, the nature of budgetary debate, and the budgetary strategies employed within Congress. These new and generally dysfunctional forms of congessional budgetary behavior are consequences of a budgetary reform that attempted to transfer many of the resource allocation procedures of the Executive branch to a legislative context. The transfer of many Executive branch budgetary procedures has led to the appearance within Congress of budgetary behavior previously confined largely to the Executive branch. The article also discusses attempts to render the congressional budget process more compatible with the legislative environment, analyzing the modifications in the original budget process that have been effected and proposed in recent years.

Earlier versions of this article were delivered at the Workshop on Budgetary Control in the Public Sector, Brussels, Belgium, October 13–14, 1983, the meetings of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, October, 1983, and the meetings of the American Political Science Association, September, 1983. Allen Schick, Robert X. Browning, Alex Hicks, Robert Strauss, John R. Hibbings, Evelyn Brodkin, and Rod Kiewiet provided helpful comments, and Pamela Reyner provided secretarial assistance. All remaining deficiencies are the responsibilities of the authors.