Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. D. Andrew Austin, Kenneth R. Thomas. November 2, 2017
The statutory debt limit, currently suspended through December 8, 2017, provides Congress a means of controlling federal borrowing. As the date when that suspension will lapse approaches, discussions about the role of the debt limit among the media, researchers, and Members of Congress promise to become more frequent. In recent discussions, misleading or less than fully accurate claims have, at times, surfaced. This report provides clarifications on five common debt limit contentions.
Some of those points in need of clarification relate to the congressional power of the purse, which stems from three closely related constitutional provisions that charge Congress with deciding how the federal government spends, taxes, and borrows.
[PDF format, 15 pages, 576.01 KB].
Congress and the Budget: 2016 Actions and Events. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Grant A. Driessen and Megan S. Lynch. October 17, 2016
The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.
There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such dissimilarity can be the result of countless factors, such as a lack of consensus, competing budgetary priorities, the economy, natural disasters, military engagements, and other circumstances creating complications, obstacles, and interruptions within the policymaking process.
[PDF format, 17 pages, 666.94 KB].
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Mary Beth D. Nikitin. September 1, 2016.
A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda. Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear–Test–Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected it in October 1999. In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama said, “My administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” However, while the Administration has indicated it wants to begin a CTBT “education” campaign with a goal of securing Senate advice and consent to ratification, it has not pressed for a vote on the treaty and there were no hearings on it in the 111th, 112th, or 113th Congresses. There will be at least one hearing in the 114th Congress—a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the CTBT planned for September 7, 2016.
[PDF format, 77 pages, 1.21 MB].
Climate Change: Frequently Asked Questions about the 2015 Paris Agreement. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Jane A. Leggett and Richard K. Lattan. September 1, 2016.
Experts broadly agree that stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere to avoid dangerous GHG–induced climate change could be accomplished only with concerted efforts by all large emitting nations. Toward this purpose, delegations of 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement (PA) on December 12, 2015. The PA outlines goals and a structure for international cooperation to slow climate change and mitigate its impacts over decades to come. Heads of state and ministers from more than 175 governments signed the PA, a record for a single day. Signature generally indicates that a nation state intends to be bound by the agreement, and it initiates the process by which a prospective Party follows its domestic procedures to ratify, accept, approve, or accede to the agreement.
[PDF format, 32 pages, 924.54 KB].
Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Curt Tarnoff and Marian L. Lawson. June 17, 2016.
Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. On the basis of national security, commercial, and humanitarian rationales, U.S. assistance flows through many federal agencies and supports myriad objectives, including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflictive regions, countering terrorism, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and trafficking. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, foreign aid has increasingly been associated with national security policy. At the same time, foreign aid is seen by many Americans, and Members of Congress, as an expense that the United States cannot afford given current budget deficits.
[PDF format, 38 pages, 1.1 MB].
Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Barry J. McMillion. April 1, 2016.
The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. The procedure for appointing a Justice is provided for by the Constitution in only a few words. The “Appointments Clause” (Article II, Section 2, clause 2) states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” The process of appointing Justices has undergone changes over two centuries, but its most basic feature—the sharing of power between the President and Senate—has remained unchanged: To receive appointment to the Court, a candidate must first be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate.
[PDF format, 26 pages, 836.0 KB].
A Primer on Disaster and Emergency Appropriations. The Heritage Foundation. Justin Bogie. March 2, 2016.
Each year, Congress appropriates billions of dollars in discretionary funding for disaster relief and emergencies. Some of that funding is provided through base appropriations measures, but a much larger portion is provided through annual Budget Control Act (BCA) cap adjustments that increase discretionary spending by billions of dollars, or by supplemental appropriations bills that provide even greater amounts of funding that is not subject to spending caps or budgetary controls. The paper outlines the three classifications of disaster and emergency spending and discusses the importance of paying for these events within the normal annual appropriations except in the cases of true emergencies. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 3 pages, 121.36 KB].