According to the US Constitution all appropriation bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

Yet, I just read a news story that described the Senate as passing a "Senate appropriation bill". How is this possible? Is the US Congress just ignoring the Constitution to do this?

  • 2
    related, Obamacare, which was argued was a tax, originated in the Senate.
    – user1873
    May 13, 2016 at 15:54
  • @user1873 I wonder why no one - notably republicans - haven't challenged this point?
    – Insane
    May 14, 2016 at 8:08
  • @Insane Nevermind. They did. They lost.
    – Insane
    May 14, 2016 at 8:23

3 Answers 3


According to the US Constitution all appropriation bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

No they don't. It says:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Raising revenue means taxes. Appropriations bills are not raising revenue.

  • 1
    Hmm, a subtle distinction. May 13, 2016 at 14:05
  • 2
    And subtle is where lawyers make their money
    – Stevetech
    May 15, 2016 at 7:51

The term "appropriations" may be the source of confusion here. In the US government, appropriations is the term they use for allocating budgeted money to specific spending. So the overall budget may allow for $500 billion in defense spending. The defense appropriations bill would say things like $50 billion for new bombers; $5 billion to maintain the existing nuclear missiles; $40 billion for submarines; etc. Note that appropriations bills will usually go into more detail than that.

An appropriations bill is exactly the kind of thing that can originate in the Senate.

Note that there is a separate issue that the Senate regularly ignores the rule against originating a tax bill by replacing an existing bill that modifies taxes in its entirety. The standing ruling is that this is allowable under the constitutional phrase "concur with amendments". This has nothing to do with appropriations, which occur after the money has been budgeted (which may require tax changes) and before it is spent (generally by the executive branch).


Usually, both houses of congress will pass their own non-binding budget resolutions, which are then used to draft a joint budget resolution that will be voted on and passed by both houses. This final bill originates in the house. But, because of the aforementioned process, the Senate can and does play an influential role in determining the federal budget. Any modifications the Senate makes to that bill, even if they were very extensive and essentially constitute an entirely new bill, are considered amendments of the house bill. It is common for people to casually refer to proposed Senate budget amendments as the "Senate budget bill."

  • But that doesn't apply here. Appropriations bills (as the term is used in the US government) aren't budget bills. They don't impact taxes in any way. They are spending bills. They appropriate money from general revenues within the guidelines set in budget bills.
    – Brythan
    Jul 30, 2016 at 3:29
  • Doesn't the executive propose the budget bill to the houses? Or drafts a bill for members of the two houses to propose?
    – einpoklum
    May 1, 2017 at 22:36

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