Fast Guide: Appropriations


Appropriations get tense and confusing each year. Our wild ones need you to be an educated advocate and speak out. This is where your voice matters. Call your representatives in Congress today,

Every year  in advocacy we need to address the government spending bills called “Appropriations.”

Appropriations are an important aspect of law as they do not simply fund government programs, they determine which aspects of programs are funded and can even change existing law as the spending bill becomes law.

One example of how an Appropriations bill can change the law is the Burns Amendment introduced into the 2004 spending bill. It created “sales without limit,” or to slaughter. Every year advocates have fought for defunding that provision, successfully, since the rider made it into the Omnibus. (more here)

Every year there is a lot of confusion in the public as these bills go through subcommittee, committee, full floor votes and sometimes end up with different bills in House and Senate and go back into debate.

A fast guide to the process

Spending is broken into three categories; mandatory, discretionary and interest on debt.


The annual process to create the federal discretionary budget.

The federal funding bill debate begins with the submission of the president’s annual budget request to the Congress. 

An allocation is determined in a budget resolution that has a primary purpose to set the level of discretionary funding (known as the “302a allocation”) for the next fiscal year.

Funding processes then move to the appropriations committees in each chamber with it’s “302a allocation.” The committee then divides up that allocation into 12 sections, the subcommittees. The various subcommittees then divide that funding level among the programs under their authority.

The subcommittee staff then produces an Appropriations bill that is goes to the full subcommittee for a vote. It is not common to see bills amended in subcommittee.

Appropriations Subcommittees

Appropriations Subcommittees in both the House and the Senate. Each subcommittees has jurisdiction over funding for a different area of the federal government. There are 12 different Appropriations subcommittees:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration
  • Commerce, Justice, and Science
  • Defense
  • Energy and Water
  • Financial Services and General Government
  • Homeland Security
  • Interior and Environment
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
  • Legislative Branch
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
  • State and Foreign Operations
  • Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development

On to the Full Committee

The bill, once passed in subcommittee, is then taken up by the full committee. Appropriations committees 

Often this is where we see several amendments to the underlying bill.

It has become common for Appropriations bills to include policy changes, or “riders.” Riders can make policy changes, like the Burns Amendment did. In the debate for fiscal 2020 (the one right now), we have pending changes to authorities that will change the law.

Riders can appear almost anywhere that a wild horse advocate must watch for. 

As an example, in 2014, The Public Lands council (one of the entities “in bed” on wild horses with HSUS et al) proposed a rider, to add to an existing rider, in the National Defense Appropriations Act . This rider would essentially remove the decision of Judge Winmil that BLM must do a rangeland health assessment prior to renewing a livestock permit and many other aspects destructive to public lands. Title XXX was proposed in the “Natural Resources Related General Provisions” from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. (WHE article. WWP article. action items from 2014)

On June 4, 2019 in the House, on the Appropriations debate for fiscal 2020 (actions funded begin Oct 2019). Bills have moved out of subcommittee.  

A hearing in the Senate committee took place on July 16. (you can see a running fact check HERE).

It is expected that the BLM Report to Congress on wild horses will drop soon. That report will be added to the language that just came out of subcommittee; the $6 million for a spay study etc. (you can read here to see the breakdown from last years report that was successfully beaten back. We must do the same this year.) The BLM Report will incorporate the “Stewart Agreement” document that is a so-called alliance document created by Stewarts staff (BLM Deputy Direct Brian Steed was Stewarts Chief of Staff during the creation of this “alliance”), Public Lands Council, Cattlemen’s Ass’n, HSUS, etc. (You can click highlighted links in the paragraph above to learn more)

Congress can not adopt the Report.

Once it drops, we must move fast. We expect the report from BLM to Congress by August 6.

We will update you as we have more information and debates heat up in Congress. For now you can scroll to the bottom of the page to take action or click this text in red TAKE THIS ACTION or scroll to the bottom of the page to view the item.

Then we get another round of voting and the bills pass to full floor of House and Senate.

All appropriations bills are supposed to be passed in “regular order,” meaning full passage of all 12 bills through both chambers and which are then signed by the president by the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

If not? we get the cycles of impending government “shutdowns” you saw over the last two years. To keep the government running a series of continuing resolutions (CRs), which are short-term spending bills that typically maintain funding levels at the previous year’s levels. are enacted.

Leadership in both chambers (House and Senate) most often negotiate on passing all the bills together in one combined package; the omnibus bill. Where less controversial bills have been passed into law, a package of the remaining appropriations bills that were not passed, will be bundled to finish funding work, and this package is known as a “minibus.”

Finally the budget goes to the President. There it can be signed into law or vetoed.

The Senate has a guide to the Appropriations process you can download HERE.


Help us stay in the fight. 


Please call your Representative and Senators today at 202-225-3121. They will direct you to your Representative. Tell them:

SIMPLE SCRIPT: We need a freeze to maintain status quo on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. No changes to budget or authority until a full  investigation into conduct of BLM employees, the Deputy Directors, and the Stewart Alliance document, titled “Path Forward,” is done.

More in depth talking points: 

Reject the document presented by Chris Stewart of Utah as an “agreement” in any debate on spending or changes to BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. The document is titled “The Path Forward For BLMs Wild Horse and Burro Program” and is not a data based discussion, but an industry back door deal.

The document is being incorporated into the BLM Report to Congress and has been given an unethical “green light” as Interior avoids scrutiny by utilizing the Deputy Director system and failing to have Congress vet a Director of BLM. 

Brian Steed, BLM Deputy Director, was Chris Stewarts Chief of Staff as this document was authored from 2016-2018. There are multiple conflicts and ethical questions among the corporate interests in the “agreement” and Brian Steed. 

There are ethical questions involving John Ruhs, Deputy Director before Steed, and many interests involved in this “agreement” including making investigations into illegal activity on the range “vanish” without the mandatory penalties. 

Congress must freeze the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program and make no changes to spending, protocol or the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. 

Congress must do an investigation into BLMs Report on Wild Horses and Burros.

Multiple big money interests are being placed above science, the law and transparent public process. 

Congress must protect the public interest and protect the public resource. 

Only after an investigation is done into ethical violations by the BLM can Congress consider any change in practice, spending or the law.

Remember to be polite. Ask for an email to send a follow up letter. 

The end of the intention of Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act is at stake.

To learn more (feel free to use via copy and paste, the info in these articles for your follow up letter. We will publish an example and update this page soon):

To learn more: