Last updated March 09, 2015

Appropriations Season Taking Longer and Longer

Over the past decade, Congress has been slower to complete action on regular appropriations bills and has delayed more of them than in prior years, relying increasingly on stopgap continuing resolutions, or CRs. Action on appropriations for fiscal 2011 was an extreme case when Congress did not enact full-year spending bills for any government agency or discretionary program until the year was half over. This delay in full-year appropriations can be measured in “bill-days” — a multiple of the number of regular spending bills covered by a partial year CR and the number of days the short-term CR was in effect. The tally of bill-days shows that the delay has been worsening since the 1990s (with the exception of fiscal 1996, when the government was shut down during a political stalemate). The number of annual short-term CRs has actually declined in recent years, but the number of regular appropriations bills covered by short-term CRs has grown. And the time between the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year and the last appropriations action has lengthened.

Delay measured in continuing resolution bill-days

What's a "bill-day"?

The following dates are fiscal years.

Click on a year on the left for more details on its appropriations timeline.