What Is Congress' Counterpart to the OMB?

by Jennifer Mueller
The CBO provides objective, nonpartisan analysis on budgetary and other fiscal issues to Congress.

The president submits an annual budget proposal to Congress each year, assisted by the Office of Management and Budget. The budgetary division of the OMB provides information that helps the president estimate revenues and project expenses for the coming year. The Congressional Budget Office is Congress' counterpart to the OMB, and provides its own analysis. Congress passes a budget resolution based on the presidential proposal and reports from the OMB and the CBO.

Budgetary Battles

As part of the president's executive office, the OMB answers directly to the president and handles a host of other administrative issues. The OMB evaluates executive agency programs and proposals to help the president create the annual budget. Before the creation of the CBO, OMB staff were discouraged from communicating with congressional staff, so Congress didn't generally have access to the OMB's information and analysis. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 corrected this inequality by providing Congress its own agency, the CBO, to generate independent economic reports and analysis on budgetary issues.

Birth of the CBO

The CBO opened its doors on February 24, 1975, with the mission of providing Congress with an independent source of expert budget analysis and economic forecasts that were objective and nonpartisan. The Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate jointly appoint a CBO director to a four-year term. The rest of the staff, including the deputy director, is then appointed by the director. In keeping with the nonpartisan nature of the office, new directors traditionally retain staff brought in by predecessors. All staff in the eight divisions of the CBO are appointed based solely on their professional competence and reputation.

Independent Analysis

The CBO reviews the president's annual budget proposal using its own, objective economic assumptions and forecasting methods. This review, combined with the CBO's independent 10-year budget assessment, allows Congress to compare the president's proposal with the CBO's projections using consistent models. The CBO releases its own budget analysis in March of each year, followed by its analysis of the president's proposed budget in April. Additionally, the CBO conducts monthly budget reviews that analyze federal revenue and spending for that month and the month prior, as well as the year. Monthly reports are issued on the fifth working day of each month. Aside from budgetary monitoring, the office releases various analytical reports periodically on specific programs or tax rules, and working papers that explain technical aspects of the CBO's methodology.

Forecasts and Projections

Twice a year, the CBO publishes 10-year budget projections and economic forecasts. These projections are based on federal law at the time the report was created. Each report explains the difference between the new report and previous reports, and compares CBO economic forecasts to those made by outside economists. The CBO releases these yearly economic forecasts in January, with an updated forecast in August. Among the many other projections and estimates the office produces, it also issues between 500 and 700 formal estimates on the costs of bills approved by Congressional committees each year. The CBO estimates are provided to Congress before the bill goes to a full vote in either house, and projects how the bill would affect either spending or revenue for the next five to 10 years.

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About the Author

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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