CBO’s Role in Supporting the Congress

Posted by
Phill Swagel
January 6, 2023

As the 118th Congress gets under way, I would like to take a moment to introduce (or reintroduce) the Congressional Budget Office to Members of Congress and Congressional staff. Please reach out to me and my colleagues; we would be delighted to meet to explain what we do and explore how we can be helpful.

CBO’s Responsibilities and Organization

Lawmakers created CBO to help the Congress play a stronger role in budget matters. Established under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, CBO is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis to support the budget process and to help the Congress make effective budget and economic policy. In carrying out that mission, the agency offers an alternative to the information provided by the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies in the executive branch.

The Congress sets CBO’s priorities. The agency’s chief responsibility under the Budget Act is to help the House and Senate Budget Committees with the matters under their jurisdiction. CBO also supports other Congressional committees—particularly Appropriations, Finance, and Ways and Means—and the Congressional leadership.

Each year, the agency’s economists and budget analysts fulfill thousands of requests for technical assistance to aid committees and Members developing legislation, produce hundreds of cost estimates for proposed legislation, and prepare dozens of reports and other materials on a variety of topics. By law, CBO’s primary responsibility is to Congressional committees. In particular, the Budget Act requires CBO to prepare cost estimates after an authorizing committee orders legislation to be reported for consideration by the full House or Senate. Those estimates also include statements concerning intergovernmental and private-sector mandates that would be imposed by the legislation.

When time permits, the agency also provides information to Members’ offices. Individual Members seeking a review of a bill may submit a request, with any draft language attached or the bill number referenced, by email to costestimates@cbo.gov.

CBO hires employees without regard to political affiliation and does not make policy recommendations. Most of CBO’s work is available to the Congress and the public on the agency’s website.

CBO has approximately 275 staff members, with the greatest number of its analysts focused on health policy. CBO’s staff also include experts in energy and climate, labor, macroeconomics, microeconomics, national security, and taxes. Maintaining a breadth of expertise enables CBO to quickly respond to policymakers’ needs.

To learn more about CBO, see An Introduction to the Congressional Budget Office and 10 Things to Know About CBO.

What’s Forthcoming From CBO

In CBO’s Recent Publications and Work in Progress as of December 31, 2022, the latest in a quarterly series, CBO highlights its recent work and summarizes its work in progress.

In February, CBO will release its updated economic forecast and baseline projections in The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2023 to 2033.

In the next few weeks, CBO will release the following additional products:

  • An analysis of the accuracy of CBO’s budget projections for fiscal year 2022 (to be released on January 9);
  • The Monthly Budget Review: December 2022 (to be released on January 10), one of a series of monthly analyses of federal spending and revenues in the previous month and the fiscal year to date;
  • A report describing the long-term implications of the 2023 Future Years Defense Program (to be released on January 11);
  • Information on expired and expiring authorizations of appropriations (to be released on January 13); and
  • The Demographic Outlook: 2023 to 2053 (to be released in January).

CBO’s Cost Estimates Page

CBO revamped the Cost Estimates page on its website to make it more user-friendly for Congressional staff and Members. Estimates for bills scheduled to be considered under the House’s suspension calendar and estimates for appropriation bills are now easier to find. The new page also highlights CBO’s explainers on cost estimates and provides quick links to relevant primers and explainers about the budget process and other topics.

Budget Options

In December 2022, CBO released the latest two volumes in a series that provides estimates of budgetary effects from a wide variety of policy options, information that lawmakers may find useful as they confront the budgetary challenges facing the nation.

CBO’s search tool for budget options includes those new options.


Finally, I want to reiterate CBO’s commitment to transparency. CBO aims to promote a thorough understanding of its work, help people gauge how estimates might change if policies or circumstances differed, and enhance the credibility of its analyses and processes. To learn more about CBO’s recent transparency efforts—including interactives and documentation of some of its major models—see CBO’s transparency page.

We look forward to working with the 118th Congress.

Phillip Swagel is CBO’s Director.