Committee History

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law, and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."
- US Constitution, Article 1, section 9

At the beginning of the Fortieth Congress in March 1867, Senator Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island offered a Senate resolution providing for the creation of "...a Committee on Appropriations, to consist of seven members." His purpose was "to divide the onerous labors of the Finance Committee with another committee" by separating the tax-writing and appropriating processes. The House had already established an Appropriations Committee two years earlier. Without further discussion, Anthony's resolution was considered by unanimous consent and agreed to, giving birth to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on March 6, 1867.

The lack of Senate debate over the proposed resolution indicates, that Members recognized the need to control the appropriations process, as well as to ensure better management of Government spending by giving one committee the sole responsibility to examine executive agency budget estimates. When the Senate approved the membership of its standing committees the next day, it named the following members to the new Committee on Appropriations:

Lot M. Morrill of Maine, Chairman
James W. Grimes of Iowa
Timothy O. Howe of Wisconsin
Henry Wilson of Massachusetts
Cornelius Cole of California
Roscoe Conkling of New York
James Guthrie of Kentucky

Senator Anthony then offered a resolution to amend Rule 30 of the Senate, to which relatively minor changes had been made in 1852 and 1854. The new resolution was far-reaching:

Resolved, That the 30th rule of the Senate be amended by adding thereto the following words, namely: "And all amendments to general appropriation bills reported from the committees of the Senate, proposing new items of appropriation, shall, 1 day before they are offered, be referred to the Committee on Appropriations; and all general appropriation bills shall be referred to the said committee."

This resolution, which the Senate agreed to without debate, gave the Committee an opportunity to examine all proposed amendments, thus precluding spontaneous floor amendments.On the first appropriation bill reported by the committee, Senator Lot Morrill raised a point of order-which the Senate sustained against a floor amendment about which the Committee on Appropriations had not received prior notice.1

The operations of the newly formed committee were in many ways similar to those in practice today. To handle the various appropriation bills, the committee soon established 13 subcommittees, with three members assigned to each, responsible for the following topics:

Diplomatic and consular
District of Columbia
Military Academy
Post Office
Sundry Civil

In the Senate, as in the House, the Committee on Commerce continued to handle the rivers and harbors appropriation bill, which had been provided for as a separate bill since 1826 and was not considered a "general" appropriation bill.

1 This measure, the first appropriation bill ever considered by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, was S. 83, Fortieth Congress, originating in the Senate. It was amended in both houses and in the conference. Only one of the three conferees, Senator Morrill, was a regular Appropriations member. Along with other items for the Senate, House, and executive branch, the bill contained $2,898 for the salary (covering approximately 16 months) for the clerk of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. President Andrew Johnson signed the bill into law on March 29, 1867.

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    Senate Appropriations Committee * The Capitol, S-131 * Washington, D.C.20510 * Telephone 202-224-7363