Could Congress allocate funds for a project or agency, but add a restriction that the funds cannot be used until some other criteria is met?

For example (purely hypothetically, of course):
Could Congress allocate $5 billion for a border wall, with the restriction that the money can't be used until after the federal government has acquired all the land that would be needed to build it?

  • 2
    Wouldn't you expect a significant part of that money to be used to acquire that land?
    – Joe C
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:28
  • 1
    @Joe C. That's an example. The specific practicalities of that particular example aren't what I'm interested in. Although a discussion of "reasonable" restrictions vs "absurd" restrictions might be valuable. Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:33
  • I don't know enough to qualify as an answer, but I've been led to believe that federal funding for Planned Parenthood has a restriction that Federal funding can not be used to perform abortions.
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 15:23
  • @Joe C - acquisition of lands to enable the 'secure the border' passed 12 years ago is still unsettled.- so yes, one might expect land acquisition costs to be incorporated in the funding proposal, but it's not clear that the current 'ask' for securing the border has such funding granularity.
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Congress is free to allocate funds in whichever way and with whatever terms it pleases, subject to the usual Constitutional requirements.

That being said, it is most likely that Congress decline to make the relevant appropriations at all until such time as the conditions have been met, so that they stay in control of the process. This doesn't have to be part of the regular budget process, but can be done mid-year if Congress deems it appropriate.

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