Home >> American-finance >> Appropriations to The National Banking System >> Appropriations



1. National appropriations are permanent or annual.

2. Permanent appropriations should be carefully limited.

3. Formation of the annual appropriation bills.

4. General deficiency bill explained.

5. Sundry civil bill explained.

6. What committees have charge of appropriation bills? 7. Evils of dividing them among so many committees.

8. Mode of preparing them.

9. Difficulties in preparing them. io. Party tricks in preparing them. Scramble of members to secure appropriations.

12. Action of the Senate committee on appropriations.

13. Adjustment of differences between the two Houses.

14. The people ought to study these bills.

15. Once if an appropriation was made it continued. i6. Now, if not expended in two years it cannot be. 17. Re-appropriations.

i8. Exceptions.

19. Negligence in making appropriations.

20. "Riders" to appropriation bills.

21. Indefinite appropriations for new enterprises.

22. Preparation of bills by the Executive Department.

23. Preliminary action of the state controllers and auditors.

24. Mode of procedure by state appropriation committees.

25. Special appropriations.

26. Action of state senates on such bills.

27. Duration of state appropriations.

28. The authority of state legislatures to adjust and pay claims.

29. The authority of the governor to veto items.

1. Having described the different objects of expendi ture, we shall now explain how appropriations are made, beginning with the national ones. Every expenditure made by a department is authorized by law. This may be done in one of the two ways. One way is by a pernianent, the other by an annual appropriation by Congress. Per manent appropriations are for paying the interest on the public debt, collecting the revenue from customs, paying salaries of officers, providing for the sinking fund, re funding taxes illegally collected, redeeming stamps, re funding duties on goods destroyed, supporting the marine hospital, maintaining justice, in short for one hundred and eighty-five purposes.

2. Those who are most familiar with the subject main tain that permanent appropriations should be carefully limited, for the interest of Congress in them is thereby withdrawn, and abuses may arise. By making appro priations annually they are subjected to scrutiny, and the danger of wastefulness or fraud is lessened.

3. When the government began, in 1879, all appro priations were made in a bill consisting of the following items : "A sum not exceeding $216,000 for defraying the expenses of the civil list under the late and present government ; a sum not exceeding $137,000 for paying the expenses of the Department of War ; a sum not exceed ing $19o,000 for discharging warrants issued by the late Board of Treasury and remaining unsatisfied ; and a sum not exceeding $96,000 for paying pensions of in dividuals." In 1792 the general appropriation bill was far more elaborate than any former one. The next year a new feature was added : the President was authorized to borrow money in anticipation of the revenue. Appro priations were made for special purposes at every session of Congress ; and generally, near the close, a bill was passed containing all the appropriations not included in previous enactments. Two years later appropriations for military and Indian purposes were put in a separate bill, and were kept there for many years. It is true, that in the general bill, as well as in the special one, and also in the misecilaneous bill, might be found appropriations for the army and for the Indians ; nevertheless, the custom had been begun of framing what may be regarded as the second regular appropriation bill. For the next three years the appropriations for the army, navy and Indians were included in a single annual bill. In 1798 the Navy Department was created, though for that year the ap propriations for the navy were mingled with others of a miscellaneous nature. The next year, 1799, the third regular annual appropriation bill was passed, making ap propriations for the Navy Department. These were the only regular appropriation bills until 1828, when a fourth bill, appropriating money for the construction of fortifica tions, was added to the number. In 1804 was passed the bill for deficiencies, and in 1844 the first separate post office appropriation bill. In 1847 the appropriations were made in nine separate bills, army, civil and diplomatic, de ficiencies, Indians, military academy, navy, pensions, and post-office. Nine years afterward the consular and diplo matic appropriations were embodied in a separate bill, and the following year the legislative, executive and judicial appropriation bill appeared. In 1867 the sundry civil bill was formed, and in 188o the agricultural and District of Columbia bills were added to the list.

4. The titles to these bills clearly indicate the purposes for which appropriations by them are made, except by the general deficiency and sundry civil bills. In what way can a deficiency arise since no official can make a contract re quiring the expenditure of money unless an appropria tion is made for that purpose? In truth, a deficiency may arise in two ways. One way is by enacting a law calling for the performing of a service, in the army or navy for example, without reference to an appropriation, and clear ly authorizing an obligation. The other way may be best explained by an illustration. Congress in 1899 granted an appropriation of $300,000 for the rural mail delivery service. The Postoffice Department made contracts for this service, which, if executed throughout the year, would have required an expenditure of $45o,000. Before the end of the year it was confronted with the alternative either of suspending a part of the service or of asking for a larger appropriation. Rather than cut down the service, Congress appropriated enough more to continue the service everywhere, and the additional amount was put into a deficiency bill passed a session after the regular postoffice appropriation bill containing the original $3oo, 000 appropriation.' 5. In the sundry civil bill is included all miscellaneous appropriations, especially for the payment of claims against the government. Congress seeks to limit the reg ular appropriation bills strictly to legitimate purposes. Not the least object in this is to minimize the importun ings of the sleepless claimant. He is a kind of omni present individual in Washington, and especially when an appropriation bill is under consideration.' It has been found that one of the most effective ways of getting relief from him is to narrow his demands as far as possible to a single bill, and this is the sundry civil. It is, however, undergoing a strange transformation. Items which ought to appear in other bills, army and navy especially, are left out of those and included in the sundry civil bill to cover up somewhat the expenditures of those depart ments. Through such additions that properly belong to other bills the sundry civil bill of late years has risen to stupendous proportions.' 6. Formerly the work of preparing appropriation bills was done by the committee of ways and means. This was the correct method, for revenues and appropriations are closely related. In 1865 an appropriation committee was created to which was referred all appropriation meas ures. Twenty years after, in 1885, the work of this com mittee was divided, the appropriation committee retaining control of six bills—general deficiencies, the District of Columbia, fortifications, legislative, executive and judicial expenditures, and pensions. The other nine bills are the agricultural, which is prepared and reported by the com mittee on agriculture; the army, and military academy bills, by the committee on military affairs ; the diplomatic and consular, by the committee of foreign affairs ; the Indian bill, by the committee on Indian affairs ; the naval, by the naval committee; the postoffice, by the postoffice committee ; the river and harbor bill, by the committee on rivers and harbors.

7. By thus dividing the work it was believed that the bills would be prepared and reported at an earlier day.' Unhappily, this has not been realized ; their appearance is still longer delayed. Besides, this change has had the ef fect of increasing expenditure. The different commit tees have not the same regard for economy as the appro priation committee had when the members were responsi ble for the entire appropriations.

8. The mode of preparing appropriation bills may next be described. The Secretary of each Department requires that the heads of subordinate departments shall "'I do not believe now that the most ardent advocate of that [change] then would contend for one moment that the beneficial results claimed and anticipated have been in any degree realized. Committees, each with jurisdiction over but one bill, have frequently been the last to bring their measures into the House for consideration. Great confusion has been experienced in the closing hours of Congress in determining the condition and status of the various appropriation bills, and the per capita of appropriations—the crucial test of econ omy in the premises—has increased, exclusive of appropria tions for pensions."—Mr. Cannon, Chairman of the Com. on App. of the 54 Congress.

"There are too many appropriation bills. Instead of four teen there ought not to be more than ten. The agricultural bill ought to be made, as it was prior to 1881, a part of the legislative, executive and judicial appropriation bill, which provides for the official staff and expenses of the several Ex ecutive departments, except the Agricultural Department. The army, fortification, military academy and naval appro priation bills ought to be consolidated into one. By such con solidation, much time now wasted in irrelevant general debate and formal proceedings would be saved to the House, and greater latitude and opportunity could be afforded for the full consideration of the real merits of appropriations carried by the several hills." Ibid. See also a very elaborate debate on the subject of distributing the bills in the Senate among other committees, 54 Cong. 1 Sess. 28 Cong. Rec. 42, 132, 1276, 1324, 1386, 1453, 6138.

make careful estimates of their wants for the next fiscal year. When these are completed, they are subject to re vision by the Secretary himself. The estimates are then sent to the Secretary of the Treasury. The estimates of the expenditures for his own department are prepared in the same manner. All of them are then published by his direction in a Book of Estimates for the use of members of Congress. Let us suppose that the committee is ready to prepare the pension appropriation bill. The Secretary of the Interior is notified, and he, or some assistant in his office, appears before the committee or sub-committee on appropriations and explains the nature of the estimates. In a few cases the preparatory work is very easy; the pension appropriation, though the largest of all, does not require such consideration, as existing laws furnish the requisite data for determining by far the largest portion of the whole amount that must be appropriated. The same remark may be made concerning appropriations for the military academy, as most of them are fixed—salaries of the professors and the like.

9. Most of the bills, however, are not prepared so easily. There is often a difference of opinion between the committee on appropriations and the Executive Depart ment concerning the amount to be appropriated. If the Secretary of the Treasury is a believer in liberal expen ditures, and the chairman and the majority of the com mittee on appropriations disagree with him, a serious con flict may arise. This has happened when the majority of either branch of Congress belonged to a different party from the chiefs of the Executive departments. Each party has battled for advantages by diminishing or in creasing appropriations.

ma A well-worn trick of parties, practiced before election, is to diminish appropriations and talk about econ omy ; and afterward to make a large deficiency appro priation to pay for the expenditures that have been in curred.

1. Besides party considerations, are the struggles to secure or exclude items of members while bills are in process of formation. An illustration may be added to show how adroitly members accomplish their ends. Sev eral years ago a navy yard was established on the North Atlantic Coast. Like others that were not needed, once existing it must be maintained. The member of Congress in whose district the yard in particular was located, com prehended the difficulty in getting an appropriation for such a useless thing. He just as clearly saw that if he could succeed it was a measure of his power. So he put all his wits in operation to accomplish this one feat during the session. What, then, was his mode of pro ceeding? He endeavored to make friends with everybody by voting for their measures, quite regardless of their merit, thus frittering away his influence as an independent legislator, expecting that when his pet measure was ready for consideration it would receive the support of all whom he had befriended during the session ! Nor did he amiss in his calculations. At each session he succeeoed in getting his appropriation, notwithstanding its utter uselessness. The more difficult the undertaking, the greater was his triumph, and the stronger the reason for sending him back. The influences that converge on the appropriation bills to get money from the public are most varied in their character. All kinds of combinations are made to secure favorable action. The members can rarely be charged as corrupt who do these things, for they usually gain no personal advantages by mak ing them except the good will of their constituents. And in the final analysis they are the actors who must be greatly blamed for many of the things done by their representatives. Knowing what their constituents, or many of them expect in the way of results, they try to accomplish these regardless of the general good of the entire country. Yet a legislator sometimes makes a signal failure who never looks beyond the horizon of his own district. Such an illustration was given not long since by Mr. Hepburn of Iowa in a speech before the House. "There was a gentleman here," he said, "from the State of Oregon—a gentleman beloved by all his colleagues—who devoted himself to securing ap propriations for his State. They were colossal in amount, and yet they were not sufficient to meet the constantly growing appetite of his people—contractors and interested persons—and when the time came that he had reached the limit, they struck him down because he could not continue these extraordinary appropria tions."' 12. When the bills pass the House they go to the Senate and are referred to the appropriation committee for consideration. The bills, when reported to the Senate, are often increased ; sometimes large amounts are added. These additions have a varied origin. Some of them are made to please members of the House, who have failed to secure a place for them in the original bill or by amendment; others to escape the charge of extravagance.

As Senators are further removed from the people, and perhaps have less fear of public criticism, it is an old practice of the House to weigh down the Senate with a part of the burden of appropriations.

13. Another important act in the perfecting of ap propriation bills is to adjust differences between the two Houses. Committees of conference, or managers, usually consisting of six members, three from each House, are appointed for this purpose. They are also members of the committee that prepared the bill in controversy and had charge of same. An adjustment means a compro mise, each house receding from some of its positions. Sometimes, however, a committee, on the part of the House or Senate, insists on retaining or rejecting an appropriation, and the members report the cause of dis agreement and aac for instructions. These are furnished in the form of a vote on some question or proposition offered by the committee, and are followed. Whenever the final report of the committee is made, it is adopted. In the way of illustrating which body must recede in the event of a disagreement may be mentioned the naval appropriation bill for 1901, to which the Senate had added $1oo,000 for hydrographic surveys. To this amendment the House was strongly opposed. The mem bers of the conference could not agree. Mr. Foss, chief manager on the part of the House, feared that if the House insisted on keeping out this appropriation, the Senate would not yield and the bill would be lost. He therefore asked "if the House conferees should insist on the House position to the defeat of the bill." Mr. Cannon, chairman of the general committee on appropria tions, and possessing a knowledge on these matters far surpassing that of any other member, replied : "All legis lation is the operation of a compromise between the two bodies. You have to give and take, and the invariable rule is that that body which proposes new legislation, which proposes an appropriation that is not called for by existing law, always recedes when the other body says no. That is the invariable parliamentary proceeding, and no other way is possible to bring about legislation upon these great money bills." As the Senate therefore had proposed this amendment, "that body must recede rather than have the bill lost.' 14. Good governing finally centres in the expenditure of money, and most of the national expenditures are authorized by the fifteen appropriation measures. If money is filched from the government, it must finally rise to the surface in the form of an appropriation to cover the expenditure. Thus, by carefully studying these bills, a good insight can be gained into nearly all of the workings of the government.

Is. Until 1872 an appropriation, once authorized, was continuous and could be drawn at any time. The un expended balance of one year could be drawn during another. These accumulated in all the bureaus and de partments, and in course of years formed a large and constant fund, which was used for many purposes with out the approvel of Congress. Of course, such action was illegal. In a single bureau it was found, in 1870, that the unexpended balances, the accumulation of a quarter of a century, amounted to $36,00o,000.

16. A law was then enacted whereby all balances in the annual bills for the services of a fiscal year remaining unexpected at its close could be applied only to the pay ment of expenses incurred during the year, or to the ful fillment of contracts properly made within it. Balances not required for the purposes specified went to the sur plus fund, and at the end of two years from the time of authorizing them, were to be covered into the Treasury. By the operation of this law two years afterward over $174,000,000 of accumulated balances were covered into the Treasury, and the temptation to waste this great fund was removed. By another law, passed in 1874, other abuses growing out of unexpended balances were wholly repressed.

17. A legislative device to cover up the actual amount of appropriations is to reappropriate unexpended bal ances without specifying the amount; and indefinite re appropriations by Congress of balances, which, under the law of 1870 and 1874, cannot be used without renewed authority, have appeared in the annual bills. The proper method is to appropriate specifically for the expenditures Congress is willing to authorize, so that the law itself shall show as far as possible both the object and the amount of appropriations.

18. The most noteworthy exceptions to this law are appropriations for fortifications, public buildings and rivers and harbors. It would be difficult to give any better reasons for making these, rather than many other appropriations, perpetual.

19. The slight interest sometimes taken by Congress in making appropriations may be illustrated by the fol lowing incident. By the Act of July 19, 1848, three months' extra pay was granted to officers and soldiers who had been engaged in the war with Mexico. The ob ject of this act was to pay each soldier on his discharge from the army for the time spent in returning home and securing employment. In 1874 $50,000 of extra pay was still due, and a bill was introduced to appropriate suffi cient money to complete the payment. An amendment was added to the original bill, enlarging the province of the first Act of to the granting of three months' extra pay to all officers and soldiers of the regular army. and all petty officers, seamen and marines of the navy and revenue marine service, who were at any time occu pied in the prosecution of the Mexicn War. No one had asked for this gratuity, and an excellent authority says that the appropriation was probably passed without much notice of its real character. The amount appropriated by the Act thus enlarged was three and a half millions, while the sum actually due was only $5o,000.

20. Another feature remains to be noticed relating to appropriation measures. Every now and then to some legislation is attached a "rider." The temptation has be come strong to attach other legislation to appropriation measures whenever possible to secure its favorable con sideration, as such bills are the most important and have the right of way in Congress. This was first attempted in England during the reign of Queen Anne and excited strong opposition. It was declared unconstitutional. In the National Congress such legislation was first at tempted to reduce some of the appropriations. Having obtained a foothol in appropriation bills, the reason which justified its introduction was soon forgotten, and foreign legislation has been occasionally smuggled into them and passed. This practice is reprehensible and should be cut off.

21. Another vice is growing in making appropria tions. In many cases, if a building, for example, is de sired, the father of the scheme, instead of appearing be fore the proper committee with a bill limiting the amount of the expenditure and explaining the need of it, succeeds in smuggling a small indefinite appropriation for the de sired purpose into an appropriation bill, assured that if he can once plant the thing it will be easy to nourish it with subsequent appropriations.' 22. Appropriation bills ought to be reported as early as possible at every session, and more time he devoted to airing and discussing them. To the accomplishing of this end, much would be gained if they were prepared by the Executive departments and presented to the commit tees charged with the duty of reporting them. Instead of preparing the Book of Estimates, why not prepare the bills and present these in printed form with such, explana tions as may be thought desirable? This would not be more difficult than to prepare the Book of Estimates ; and the different committees that now prepare them, relieved of this work, would be able to report them earlier during the session, leaving more time for their consideration.

23. Passing from the National appropriation bills, those of the States may, be more briefly considered. As their appropriations are smaller, in most States only one general appropriation bill is prepared and passed. Before the meeting of the legislature the State controller, or auditor, or other person who keeps the public accounts of a State makes a report describing the revenues of the preceding year, and also the expenditures and various objects for which they were made. The duties of this accounting officer are simple, the auditing or examining of accounts and classifying and printing them for the in formation of the legislature and the people.' 24. On the assembling of the legislature a committee on appropriations is appointed by the speaker of the lower house. In some legislatures, only one committee exists for appropriating money and for devising ways to raise it, usually called the committee of ways and means. This is the true method, for wherever it exists the mem bers in making appropriations will be restrained by pres ent or future revenue conditions. Divide the duty be tween two committees, and the tendency of the appro priation committee will be to spend more because the re sponsibility for raising the money rests on another com mittee. The bill prepared for the consideration of the house ought to be perfected at an early date, so that its contents can be printed and widely examined. Usually it is one of the last measures reported. The reason for the delay is that throughout the session persons appear urging appropriations. Of course, the committee is un willing to offend anybody, and so hearings are usually given to all. Sometimes the committee goes to various places to examine enterprises for which appropriations are asked. The consequence is that the report is usually delayed until near the close of the session. By that time it is known how much the State will have to expend ; this is found out by the officers who collect the taxes, and with this information to guide the committee, it is ready to proceed with its work.

25. There is, however, nothing to bar other commit tees from considering applications for special appropria tions. A committee on canals, for example, in a State where they exist, as in New York, may take charge of appropriations relating to their repairs, etc. A railway committee may make recommendations and seek to get appropriations for railway purposes ; other committees may recommend and succeed in passing special appro priations. In truth there is no limit to appropriation bills that may be passed. And if the regulations concerning them are fewer than those which relate to national appro priations they are less needed, because the sums appro priated are smaller, and it is easier to watch them and prevent abuses when members are inclined to go too far.

26. The senate in State legislatures, like the national senate, exercises full authority over appropriation meas ures in reducing or enlarging or otherwise changing them. When a bill of this character passes the house, it is sent to the senate and referred to a similar committee, which considers the measure and makes a report on which action is taken.

27. By the constitutions of most States an annual de tailed statement must be made by the treasurer, con troller or auditor of the receipts and expenditures ; and no money can be legally paid out without legislative au thority. And in some of the States no appropriation can be made for more than two years.

28. In appropriating money to pay claims the con stitutions of Illinois and Texas provide that this cannot he done in a private law. By the constitutions of New York and Michigan the legislature is forbidden to audit or to allow a private claim or account, while the legisla tures of several other States are forbidden to authorize the payment of a claim founded on an agreement made without authority of law. The legislature of Maryland is restricted by a peculiar constitutional provision in acting on private claims. No money can be appropriated to pay a claim exceeding three hundred dollars, unless it has been approved before the controller and is reported by him. In New York the legislature or other authority cannot allow a claim that would be barred by the statute of limitations if it were against an individual.' 29. When a bill is finally passed and goes to the governor for his approval, in many States he can exercise a wise discretion in disallowing items. He has thirty days or longer to examine them. If a governor is high minded in doing his duty, he often disallows many items, thus incurring, it may be, the enmity of those who suffer through his action. But there is no question concerning the wisdom of endowing him with this authority, and no amendment of the National Constitution is more needed than one authorizing the President to veto all question able and wrongful appropriations. If he was authorized to do this, many of the worst items now smuggled into appropriation bills would meet their doom by the Presi dent's hand.

'For further explanation of a deficiency bill, see 33 Cong. Record, 960, 896, 899.

'See debates, 33 Cong. Record, 6811.

speech of G. B. McClellan, 34 Cong. Record, 2707.

'34 Cong. Record, 1029.

'33 Cong. Record, p. 6696. The two houses, during the first session of the 66th Congress were for a long time unable to agree on the subject of contracting for armor plate. The con ference committee often met and the managers, on the part of each house, reported several times to their respective bodies, and were instructed. See 33 Cong. Record, p. 6875. See further remarks by Mr. Cannon on the methods of conference com mittees, 33 Cong. Record, p. 7059.

'How great oaks from small acorns grow, see remarks of Mr. Cannon, 34 Cong. Record, 1608, and those of Senator Hale, 34 Cong. Record, 2658.

State controllers and auditors of many States might improve their reports by classifying their expenditures and revenues, and by comparing them with the expenditures of previous years. While there may not be the least disposition on the part of accounting officers to hide information from the public concerning the receipt and disposition of public money, in truth it is largely hidden, through lack of classification and comparison of items except to those who have ample time for exploring their labyrinthine reports. See some excellent re marks by Prof. Seligman in Am. Statistical Assn. 349-354.

claims against the State, Ernst Freund, 8 Polit. Science 2,265.

appropriation, bill, bills, committee and congress