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Budget Glossary

Authorizing Committee: Both the Senate and the House have sitting committees that are charged with overseeing legislation dealing with specific programs. These authorizing committees hold hearings and make alterations to bills before the legislation is moved to the full Senate or House for consideration. For example, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds hearings on bills that would set federal laws for smoking prevention.

Budget reconciliation: Under congressional budget rules, when the House and Senate draw up the budget resolution each year, they can include a budget reconciliation directive mandating that various committees change laws governing entitlement programs to save money.

Budget resolution: This is a joint House and Senate blueprint of anticipated federal spending and revenues. The resolutions, which lay out the committees’ spending, revenue, borrowing and economic goals, serve as the vehicle for imposing internal budget discipline. The measures go to the full House and Senate and must be reconciled to produce one budget resolution that is passed by both chambers. The budget resolution covers at least five years and contains spending limits for discretionary spending. It also includes a projection of annual budget deficits and a statement of the federal debt.

Byrd Rule: This is a reference to procedures that can be used to excise portions of a bill being considered under budget reconciliation. The rule is named for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who helped design the six conditions that allow portions of the legislation to be cut from the bill.

Discretionary Spending: This is the spending that Congress sets annually for federal programs and does not include entitlement program spending, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Entitlement Spending: This is spending for federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The funding levels are dependent on the number of people entitled to the program.

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