CBO LogoBeginning in the early 1920s, the President began to assume more prominence in setting the federal budget. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 gave the President overall responsibility for budget planning by requiring him to submit an annual, comprehensive budget proposal to the Congress; that act also expanded the President’s control over budgetary information by establishing the Bureau of the Budget (renamed the Office of Management and Budget in 1971). By contrast, the Congress lacked institutional capacity to establish and enforce budgetary priorities, coordinate actions on spending and revenue legislation, or develop budgetary and economic information independently of the executive branch.

Conflict between the legislative and executive branches reached a high point during the summer of 1974, when Members objected to then-President Richard Nixon’s threats to withhold Congressional appropriations for programs that were inconsistent with his policies (a process known as impoundment). The dispute led to the enactment of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 in July of that year.

The Budget Act reasserted the Congress’s constitutional control over the budget by establishing new procedures for controlling impoundments and by instituting a formal process through which the Congress could develop, coordinate, and enforce its own budgetary priorities independently of the President. In addition, the law created new legislative institutions to implement the new Congressional budget process: the House and Senate Budget Committees to oversee execution of the budget process and the Congressional Budget Office to provide the budget committees and the Congress with objective, impartial information about budgetary and economic issues. The agency began operating on February 24, 1975, when Alice Rivlin was appointed its first director.

Since its founding, CBO has had eight directors. Their names and terms of office are as follows:

Alice M. Rivlin February 24, 1975 — August 31, 1983
Rudolph G. Penner September 1, 1983 — April 28, 1987
Robert D. Reischauer March 6, 1989 — February 28, 1995
June E. O'Neill March 1, 1995 — January 29, 1999
Dan L. Crippen February 3, 1999 — January 3, 2003
Douglas Holtz-Eakin February 5, 2003 — December 29, 2005
Peter R. Orszag January 18, 2007 — November 25, 2008
Douglas W. Elmendorf January 22, 2009 —

During gaps between directors, the agency has been led by acting directors. CBO’s Acting Directors have been Edward M. Gramlich, James L. Blum, Barry Anderson, Donald B. Marron, and Robert A. Sunshine.