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COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
CHET HOLIFIELD, California, Chairman JACK BROOKS, Texas
FRANK HORTON, New York L. H. FOUNTAIN, North Carolina
JOHNN. ERLENBORN, Illinois ROBERT E.JONES, Alabama
JOHN W. WYDLER, New York JOHN E. MOSS, California
CLARENCE J. BROWN, Ohio DANTE B. FASCELL, Florida
GUY VANDER JAGT, Michigan HENRY S. REUSS, Wisconsin
GILBERT GUDE, Maryland TORBERT H. MACDONALD, Massachusetts PAUL N. MCCLOSKEY, JR., California WILLIAM S. MOORHEAD, Pennsylvania JOHN H. BUCHANAN, JR., Alabama WM. J. RANDALL, Missouri
SAM STEIGER, Arizona BENJAMIN S. ROSENTHAL, New York GARRY BROWN, Michigan JIM WRIGHT, Texas
CHARLES THONE, Nebraska FERNAND J. ST GERMAIN, Rhode Island RICHARD W. MALLARY, Vermont JOHN C. CULVER, Iowa
STANFORD E. PARRIS, Virginia FLOYD V. HICKS, Washington
RALPH S. REGULA, Ohio DON FUQUA, Florida
ANDREW J. HINSHAW, California JOHN CONYERS, JR., Michigan
ALAN STEELMAN, Texas BILL ALEXANDER, Arkansas
JOEL PRITCHARD, Washington BELLA S. ABZUG, New York
ROBERT P. HANRAHAN, Illinois
HERBERT ROBACK, Staff Director
J. P. CARLSON, Minority Counsel
FOREWORD BY CHAIRMAN HOLIFIELD
In recent years, the term "impoundment,” used in relation to appropriations, has become important in the political vocabulary. However, it has no precise definition. Although occurring in certain statutes, it is not actually defined in them. It has come to mean the process of the executive branch's withholding certain appropriated amounts, or "reserving" them, from expenditure or obligation. The result is ordinarily the retardation of specific projects or activities. From the viewpoint of the Congress, impoundments usually have been considered to be without legal authority. The executive branch, on the other hand, has regarded such withholding as having both constitutional and statutory bases. Consequently, impoundment actually refers to a classic constitutional conflict involving assertion of duties and authority by the Congress and the executive relating to establishment of spending priorities.
The Antideficiency Act recognizes that withholding for some purposes is proper. It gives the President a mandate to apportion appropriated funds and thereby minimize the need for deficiency or supplemental appropriations, to establish reserves for contingencies, and to effect savings associated with changes in requirements and more efficient operations.
Controversies have arisen when the President has attempted to justify the withholding of expenditures on some "fiscal policy” ground such as inflation control. The Congress, in an effort to regulate more closely the impounding process and to limit the President's latitude for withholding, recently enacted Public Law 93-344, title X of which is the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The President, on signing the measure, indicated his concern that some provisions might work against prompt and effective governmental response to changing conditions. The issue of impoundment, it is clear, will not be put to rest by the 1974 legislation.
It is likely also that litigation over impoundment will continue in the courts. The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 empowers the Comptroller General to bring civil actions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia whenever he determines that any officer or employee of the United States has failed to expend or obligate funds ("budget authority'') required to be made available in accordance with the requirements of the act.
Before the act, State or local units of government, and other entities or individuals affected by Presidential withholding decisions, sought recourse in the courts, challenging the legality of specific impoundments. The opinions in more than 50 judicial decisions throw light on the complexities of impoundment and the variations in law and policy that make the difference between proper and improper withholding.
The Committee on Government Operations, which has jurisdiction over budget and accounting matters other than appropriations, and which is vitally interested in the economy and efficiency of public
expenditures, has received numerous inquiries about the meaning and content of the judicial decisions on impoundment.
The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress has made a scholarly and timely analysis of the holdings in these court cases, which we are now issuing as a committee print for its reference value to the committee and to Members of Congress, as well as to the general public.
The study was prepared by Mr. Stuart Glass, a legislative attorney in the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. It should contribute to a better understanding of congressional-executive relationships and the exercise of responsibilities in the spending of public monies. Also, it will assist the Congress in considerations which may arise under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
The analysis, conclusions, and questions raised in the study do not necessarily reflect the views of the committee or of its individual members.