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/58954), 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 1,108 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2023 and 355 authorizations that are set to expire before the end of the fiscal year. CBO also found that $510 billion in appropriations for 2023 was associated with 428 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, and those authorizations may be definite (specifying the exact amount of funding that may be provided) or indefinite (authorizing the appropriation of “such sums as may be necessary,” with no specified upper limit). CBO refers to both definite and indefinite authorizations of appropriations as explicit. (CBO does not track implied authorizations of appropriations.)
Section 202(e)(3) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 602(e)(3)) 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 will expire during the current fiscal year.
The information summarized in the following section 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 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.
For this report, funding for expired authorizations includes only those appropriations that could clearly be associated with the authorization in legislative text or legislative history. Additional 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 identify authorizations for this report was the last public law passed by the 117th Congress—Public Law 117-362, an act to amend the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to improve the program, and for other purposes, which was enacted on January 5, 2023. CBO identified 1,108 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of fiscal year 2023 and 355 authorizations of appropriations that were set to expire by the end of fiscal year 2023.3 CBO estimates that $510 billion in funding was appropriated for 2023 for activities with expired authorizations, which the agency identified for each House and Senate authorizing committee (see Table 1) and appropriations subcommittee (see Table 2).4
Summary of 2023 Appropriations With Expired Authorizations, by House and Senate Authorizing Committee
Summary of 2023 Appropriations With Expired Authorizations, by Appropriations Subcommittee
In CBO’s estimation, 49 percent of authorizations identified for this report expired at least a decade ago; the oldest expired in 1980. More than 70 percent of such authorizations were for specified amounts of annual funding that, when combined, totaled $94 billion for the year when they were last in effect. The remainder authorized appropriations of indefinite amounts to administer certain programs or functions.
The $510 billion in funding for fiscal year 2023 for which authorizations have expired can be attributed to 428 expired authorizations contained in 166 laws out of all 286 laws with expired authorizations. Of that total, $395 billion is associated with specified authorizations and $115 billion with indefinite authorizations. More than half ($329 billion) of that $510 billion was provided for activities whose authorizations expired more than a decade ago.
CBO cannot identify appropriations for fiscal year 2023 for 680 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 2023.5
Overall, CBO identified an increase of $35 billion (or 7 percent) in funding for expired authorizations this year; that funding rose from $476 billion in 2022 to $510 billion in 2023.6
Funding for expired authorizations is mostly attributable to a small group of expired authorizations: Twenty laws were identified as major sources of expired authorizations for which appropriations were provided in 2022 or 2023 (see Table 3).7 The authorizations in all but one of those laws were identified as receiving appropriations in both years. In 2023, 19 of those 20 laws accounted for $461 billion of the $510 billion in total funding for expired authorizations that CBO identified, and 147 laws accounted for the remainder.
Public Laws That Are Major Sources of Expired Authorizations of Appropriations With Identifiable Appropriations in 2022 and 2023
Specified authorizations of appropriations set to expire during 2023 total $910 billion this year (see Table 4). Most of that amount is authorized for defense activities, which, historically, have been reauthorized annually.
Summary of Authorizations of Appropriations Expiring on or Before September 30, 2023, 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.8
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 of appropriations 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.9 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 the public law or section of the U.S. Code that contains the authorization, the expiration date, and the latest amount authorized prior to expiration. 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 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 committees’ 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 in the LCS to be consistent with the way related appropriations are typically 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 result in multiple entries for 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 amount authorized to be counted multiple times.
Phase 3: Identify Appropriations for Expired Authorizations
Once full-year 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 have expired as of that time. Then, they review appropriation legislation that provides funding for the current fiscal year, including any supplemental appropriations and any permanent or advance appropriations already in place.10 Analysts also consult detailed tables provided by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the joint explanatory statement. (Joint explanatory statements accompany appropriation acts and further specify the allocation of budget authority.)
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 aims 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.
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 skew 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 authorizations and related appropriations. Likewise, uncertainty in the cataloging of authorizations and appropriations affects the accuracy of comparisons between datasets 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/58954. The data supersede preliminary data that did not associate appropriations with authorizations; see Congressional Budget Office, “Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023—Information for Legislation Enacted Through January 5, 2023” (February 2023), www.cbo.gov/publication/58917.
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); 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).
3. Some of the expired and expiring authorizations identified for this report may have been reauthorized by legislation enacted after January 5, 2023.
4. In identifying appropriations for this report, CBO reviewed all appropriation acts for fiscal year 2023 as of January 5, 2023—divisions A through N of P.L. 117-328 and multiple laws that provided supplemental appropriations for 2023: the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-180); the Further Continuing Appropriations and Extensions Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-229); and the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations and Extensions Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-264). The last appropriation act that CBO reviewed for this report was division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-328).
5. Regardless of whether CBO could identify appropriations for this report, a federal agency may be able to determine that funding for 2023 is available for purposes covered by an expired authorization.
6. The 2022 total differs from the value in last year’s report ($461 billion) because it reflects updates to account for supplemental appropriations enacted after the release of that report and to correct database errors that CBO identified while preparing this edition of the report.
7. For this edition of the report, a law counts as a major source of appropriations for expired authorizations if more than $3 billion in appropriations were identified for the law’s expired authorizations in 2022 or 2023.
8. 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.
9. If an authorization does not specify a particular expiration date but specifies a fiscal year, then CBO lists September 30—the last day of the fiscal year—as the expiration date.
10. 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 as well as corrections to database errors that CBO identified while preparing the report. CBO does not revise the report, but in the next report it provides details on the amount of supplemental appropriations that were identified and associated with authorizations that had expired when the previous report was published.
This Congressional Budget Office report 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 have expired or will expire in 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, Justin Riordan, and Esther Steinbock. The information in it was prepared by Breanna Browne-Pike, Joanna Capps (formerly of CBO), George McArdle, Amy McConnel, Justin Riordan, Mark Sanford, Esther Steinbock, J’nell Blanco Suchy, and Olivia Yang. Breanna Browne-Pike fact-checked the report with assistance from Justin Riordan. Shane Beaulieu and Patrice Watson of CBO and many staff members of Congressional committees provided assistance.
Chad Chirico, Ann Futrell, Theresa Gullo, Jeffrey Kling, and Robert Sunshine reviewed the report. Christine Browne edited it, and R. L. Rebach prepared the report for publication. The report is available at www.cbo.gov/publication/58954.
CBO seeks feedback to make its work as useful as possible. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phillip L. Swagel