All years referred to in this report are federal fiscal years, which run from October 1 to September 30 and are designated by the calendar year in which they end. Numbers in the text and tables may not add up to totals because of rounding. Supplemental data for this analysis are available on CBO’s website (www.cbo.gov/publication/57760), as are previous editions of this report (https://tinyurl.com/yc8pnkfu).
The Congressional Budget Office tracks authorizations of appropriations that have specified expiration dates and identifies, annually, appropriations that are provided for authorizations that have expired. For this report, CBO identified 1,118 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2022 and 111 authorizations that are set to expire before the end of the fiscal year. CBO also found that $461 billion in appropriations for 2022 was associated with 422 expired authorizations of appropriations.
Some provisions of law authorize the Congress to provide funds through a future appropriation act to administer a program or function. Such authorizations of appropriations, which are the subject of this report, differ from other authorizations (sometimes called enabling or organic statutes) that create a federal agency, establish a federal program, prescribe a federal function, or provide for a particular federal obligation or expenditure within a program. Appropriations provide funding to agencies to administer programs and functions.
An authorization of appropriations constitutes guidance for future Congressional decisions about funding that may be necessary to implement an enabling statute; the authorization may be contained in that enabling statute or enacted separately. Such laws may authorize appropriations for one year, for multiple years, or in perpetuity. The amounts authorized may be definite (specifying the exact amount of funding that may be provided) or indefinite (authorizing “such sums as may be necessary,” with no specified upper limit). In either case, CBO refers to those laws as explicit authorizations.
Section 202(e)(3) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires CBO to report annually to the Congress on the following:
- All programs and activities funded for the current fiscal year for which the authorizations of appropriations have expired, and
- All programs and activities for which the authorizations of appropriations expire during the current fiscal year.
The information summarized here is drawn from the agency’s Legislative Classification System (LCS), the database of nonpermanent and explicit authorizations of appropriations that underlies the report.1 Later in this report, CBO describes the method it uses to determine which authorizations have expired or will expire and discusses uncertainty in the aggregated information.
House and Senate rules dating from the 19th century restrict lawmakers from considering an appropriation if it lacks a current authorization.2 The determination of whether that is the case and whether an appropriation violates a House or Senate rule is made by the Speaker of the House or the Presiding Officer of the Senate on the basis of advice from the relevant chamber’s Office of the Parliamentarian. Although this report is intended to aid the Congress by identifying explicit authorizations of appropriations that expired before, or will expire during, this fiscal year, it is not and should not be considered definitive with respect to the application of House or Senate rules.3
For this report, funding for expired authorizations includes only those appropriations that could be associated with the authorization in legislative text or legislative history; additional amounts of funding may be available for activities or programs with expired authorizations of appropriations.
Authorizations and Appropriations Identified for This Report
The last piece of legislation that CBO analyzed to determine authorizations for this report was Public Law 117-103, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, enacted on March 15, 2022. As of that date, CBO had identified 1,118 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2022 and 111 authorizations of appropriations that were set to expire by the end of fiscal year 2022.4 CBO estimates that $461 billion in funding was appropriated for 2022 for activities with expired authorizations (see Table 1 and see Table 2).5
Summary of 2022 Appropriations With Expired Authorizations, by House and Senate Authorizing Committee
Summary of 2022 Appropriations With Expired Authorizations, by Appropriations Subcommittee
- According to CBO’s analysis, roughly 44 percent of expired authorizations identified for this report expired at least a decade ago; the oldest expired in 1980. More than 70 percent of such authorizations are for specified amounts of annual funding that, when combined, totaled $93 billion for the year when they were last in effect. The remainder authorized indefinite appropriations of amounts to administer certain programs or functions.
- The $461 billion in funding for fiscal year 2022 for which authorizations have expired can be attributed to 422 expired authorizations contained in 163 laws. Of that total, $353 billion is associated with specified authorizations and $107 billion with indefinite authorizations. More than half ($268 billion) of that $461 billion was provided for authorizations that expired more than a decade ago.
- CBO cannot identify appropriations for fiscal year 2022 for 696 expired authorizations—that is, clear connections cannot be made between the language of those authorizations and the statutory text and corresponding legislative history of appropriation legislation for 2022.6
- Overall, CBO identified an increase of $26 billion (or 6 percent) in funding for expired authorizations this year; that funding rose from $435 billion in 2021 to $461 billion in 2022.7
- Funding for expired authorizations is mostly attributable to a small group of expired authorizations: Twenty-one laws were identified as major sources of expired authorizations for which appropriations were provided in 2021 or 2022 (see Table 3).8 All those laws received appropriations in both years. In 2022, those 21 laws accounted for $414 billion of the $461 billion in total funding for expired authorizations that CBO identified, and 142 laws accounted for the remainder. The largest such appropriation is for veterans’ medical care.
Public Laws That Are Major Sources of Expired Authorizations of Appropriations With Identifiable Appropriations in 2021 and 2022
- Specified authorizations of appropriations set to expire during 2022 total $807 billion this year (see Table 4). Most of that amount is authorized for defense activities, which, historically, are reauthorized annually.
Summary of Authorizations of Appropriations Expiring on or Before September 30, 2022, by House and Senate Authorizing Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee
The supplemental data file posted along with this report provides detailed information about the status of individual explicit authorizations of appropriations.
How CBO Determines Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations
The process of assembling information on expired and expiring authorizations of appropriations occurs in three phases. First, CBO’s analysts review newly enacted laws to identify provisions that establish or modify explicit, time-limited authorizations of appropriations. Second, they catalog information about those authorizations in the agency’s LCS database. Third, they review appropriations enacted for the current fiscal year to assess whether those acts provide funding for expired authorizations.9 The process of associating authorizations and appropriations is imprecise, involving analysts’ judgment, and the resulting statistics in this report are uncertain.
Phase 1: Review Authorizations
CBO’s analysts review the text of newly enacted legislation to identify provisions that create new authorizations of appropriations or that amend, extend, or repeal existing ones. To be included, each authorization must meet three criteria:
- It Authorizes an Appropriation Explicitly. Many federal activities are governed by an enabling authorization (such as an organic statute that outlines an agency’s mission and authorities) and by an explicit authorization of appropriation; others might not have an authorization of appropriation. This report considers explicit authorizations only. A key determinant for inclusion is the text of the law, which often includes the words “authorization of appropriation.”
- It Would Receive Funding in an Appropriation Act. This report focuses on authorizations for funding that CBO expects would be provided in legislation under the jurisdiction of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations.
- It Has a Specified Expiration Date. Authorizations of appropriations do not fit within the scope of this report if they are permanent or lack an end date.10 Because the report excludes explicit authorizations that do not expire, it cannot be considered an exhaustive list of enacted authorizations of appropriations.
Phase 2: Catalog Authorizations
During this phase of the process, analysts update the LCS, recording new authorizations as well as repeals, modifications, and extensions. The LCS contains information about each authorization: the committees of jurisdiction, references to a public law or section of the U.S. Code that contains the authorization, the expiration date, and the amount authorized to be appropriated in the authorization’s final year. If the authorized amount is indefinite, the LCS shows a zero.
To ensure the reliability of data cataloged during the second phase, CBO is required by law to consult with key staff of Congressional committees. CBO shares a preliminary version of the data for the upcoming report and asks staff members to review items within each committee’s jurisdiction. That process helps CBO identify and correct errors in the LCS, particularly errors related to committee jurisdiction and the status of authorizations.
The goal for this phase is to ensure that the data related to authorizations are entered into the LCS in a way that helps analysts identify subsequent appropriations for those authorizations in future years if they expire. In some cases, authorizations are combined to make it easier for analysts to identify appropriations for a given program or activity. For example, large authorization bills—such as the annual National Defense Authorization Act and the biennial Water Resources Development Act—can contain hundreds of discrete authorizations of appropriations for a broad range of activities of a federal department or agency. CBO consolidates many of those authorizations within the LCS to be consistent with the way related appropriations typically are provided. As a result, the number of expired or expiring authorizations in the LCS can be smaller than the actual number of discrete authorizations contained in those laws.
By contrast, if there is ambiguity about whether two authorizations of appropriations may interact or overlap, both are included in the LCS. That way, each explicit authorization is cataloged as closely as possible to the way it appears in the law. However, that treatment may double count some amounts authorized to be appropriated. For example, if an explicit authorization of appropriations for a series of grant programs is in place and a new law establishes an explicit authorization for a specific type of grant, analysts may not be able to determine whether the new authorization is meant to be additional to or derived from the existing authorization. In that case, CBO catalogs both the new authorization and the existing one in the LCS, potentially causing the authorization to be counted twice.
Phase 3: Identify Appropriations for Expired Authorizations
Once the 12 annual appropriation acts for the fiscal year covered by the report are enacted, CBO begins the third phase of the process. Analysts start by assessing the list of authorizations that are expired as of that time. Then, they review appropriation legislation that provides funding for the current fiscal year. Specifically, the 12 annual appropriation acts are reviewed, as are any supplemental appropriations enacted for the year and any permanent or advance appropriations already in place.11 Analysts also consult detailed tables provided by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Joint Explanatory Statement of Conferees. (The joint explanatory statement explains the various elements of the conferees’ agreement in relation to the positions that the House and Senate had committed to the conference committee.)
The goal for this phase is to connect appropriations with expired authorizations on the basis of the appropriation acts’ text and the corresponding legislative history. CBO’s ability to make such connections is limited by the amount of detail provided in those laws and in related materials. Without a clear link, CBO is not always able to associate an expired authorization with an appropriation—even if a federal agency could determine subsequently that appropriations are available for purposes covered by an expired authorization. In such cases, CBO might not identify those amounts in the LCS if the language of the authorization and the appropriation do not align. If authorizations overlap or interact, CBO tries to identify an appropriation for each authorization.
CBO’s goal is to ensure consistency in the LCS’s records of appropriations for expired authorizations. When more than one appropriation is identified for a single expired authorization, the amounts are consolidated and attributed to that authorization for that year. If an appropriation can be associated with more than one authorization in the LCS, CBO associates that appropriation with just one authorization—usually, the one most recently in effect.
Uncertainty of the Reported Statistics
Cataloging authorizations and identifying appropriations involves analysts’ judgment. For that reason, the report’s statistics are subject to uncertainty. Under- or overstating the number of authorizations can result in underestimating or double counting both the number of expired authorizations with identified funding and the dollar amounts of appropriations provided for expired authorizations. Thus, this report should not be construed as providing precise information about the current state of explicit authorizations and related appropriations. That uncertainty in the cataloging of authorizations and appropriations affects the accuracy of comparisons between data sets from year to year. Comparisons of data between one report and another indicate broad overall trends, not precise differences.
1. That database is available in the workbook posted as supplemental data at www.cbo.gov/publication/57760. The data supersede a preliminary version; see Congressional Budget Office, “Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022—Information for Legislation Enacted Through September 30, 2021” (January 2022), www.cbo.gov/publication/57739.
2. See clause 2(a)(1) of rule XXI, “General Appropriation Bills and Amendments,” of the Rules of the House of Representatives, H.R. Doc. 115-177 (2019), p. 871, https://tinyurl.com/53ethuav (PDF, 5 MB); and clause 1 of rule XVI, “Appropriations and Amendments to General Appropriations Bills,” of the Standing Rules of the Senate, S. Doc. 113-18 (January 2013), p. 11, https://tinyurl.com/cttpbya8 (PDF, 362 KB).
3. CBO consults with Congressional committees when preparing this report, as required by law.
4. It is possible that some of the expired and expiring authorizations identified for this report were reauthorized by legislation enacted after March 15, 2022.
5. Appropriations identified for this report stem from divisions A through L of P.L. 117-103 and multiple laws that provided supplemental appropriations for 2022. The last appropriation act that CBO reviewed for this report was division C of P.L. 117-167, the Supreme Court Security Funding Act of 2022.
6. Regardless of whether CBO can identify appropriations for this report, a federal agency may be able to determine that funding for 2022 is available for purposes covered by an expired authorization.
7. The 2021 total differs from the figure in last year’s report ($432 billion) because it includes updates to account for appropriations provided in supplemental appropriation acts enacted after the release of that report and to correct database errors that CBO identified while preparing this edition of the report.
8. For this edition of the report, major sources of appropriations for expired authorizations include laws with more than $3 billion in identified appropriations in 2021 or 2022.
9. As it does for other legislation, CBO reviews appropriation acts for explicit authorizations of appropriations and updates the LCS accordingly. CBO’s catalog of authorizations as compiled from the LCS is published with each edition of the report. See Congressional Budget Office, “Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations,” https://tinyurl.com/yc8pnkfu.
10. If an authorization does not specify a particular expiration date but includes the entire fiscal year, then CBO lists September 30—the last day of the fiscal year—as the expiration date.
11. When a supplemental appropriation is enacted after CBO publishes the report for a fiscal year, CBO updates the LCS to reflect changes to funding for expired authorizations. CBO does not revise the report, but it provides details in the next report on the amount of supplemental appropriations that were identified and associated with authorizations that had expired when the previous report was published.
This report by the Congressional Budget Office satisfies the requirements of section 202(e)(3) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, as amended. The report is intended to assist the Congress by identifying authorizations of appropriations that expired before, or will expire during, the current fiscal year. Previous editions, which until 2016 were titled Unauthorized Appropriations and Expiring Authorizations, are available from CBO’s web page for major recurring reports, “Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations,” at https://tinyurl.com/yc8pnkfu.
Olivia Yang wrote the report with guidance from Megan Carroll, Leo Lex, and Esther Steinbock. The information in it was prepared by Breanna Browne-Pike, Joanna Capps, Fiona Forrester, Madeleine Fox, Sofia Guo (formerly of CBO), Rachel Matthews, George McArdle, Amy McConnel, Justin Riordan, Mark Sanford, Esther Steinbock, J’nell Blanco Suchy, Jordan Trinh, Olivia Yang, and Sree Yeluri. Jordan Trinh and Lucy Yuan fact-checked the report. Shane Beaulieu and Patrice Watson of CBO and many staff members of Congressional committees provided assistance.
Mark Hadley, Jeffrey Kling, and Robert Sunshine reviewed the report. Christine Bogusz edited it, and Casey Labrack prepared the report for publication. The report is available at www.cbo.gov/publication/57760.
CBO seeks feedback to make its work as useful as possible. Please send comments to email@example.com.
Phillip L. Swagel