Changes in Mandatory Programs
- Federal spending can be divided into three general budget categories — discretionary spending, mandatory spending (including entitlements and other direct spending), and net interest.
- Discretionary spending is determined by annual funding decisions set forth in 12 annual appropriations bills — drafted by the Appropriations Committees and enacted by Congress.
- Discretionary spending is controlled by statutory spending caps on total defense and total non-defense discretionary spending; the caps are are enforced by the Office of Management and Budget through sequestration.
- A mechanism that is sometimes used to allow additional spending while remaining within the spending caps is called “CHIMPs” or Changes in Mandatory Programs.
- CHIMPs are provisions that cancel or delay spending in mandatory spending programs and score as budget savings (or in technical terms, negative budget authority).
- Under federal budgetary scorekeeping guidelines, the negative budget score allows Congress to appropriate additional discretionary funds while remaining within the statutory caps.
- CHIMPs sometimes draw opposition from: authorizing committees who don’t like the Appropriations Committees making changes to mandatory spending programs; and fiscal hawks who argue that some CHIMPs do not reflect bona fide budget savings. This has led to limits on the use of CHIMPs.
- LIMITS ON CHIMPs: Section 402 of the FY 2018 Congressional Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 71) places limits on CHIMPs as follows:
- for fiscal year 2018, $17,000,000,000;
- for fiscal year 2019, $15,000,000,000; and
- for fiscal year 2020, $15,000,000,000.
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