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What is the SUBMIT IT Act?

Congress can demand the president’s budget request before the State of the Union.

New legislation could help Congress reclaim power, hold the president accountable, and get a timely start to each year’s priorities.

Senator Joni Ernst and Representative Buddy Carter proposed S. 3734/H.R. 7249, the Send Us Budget Materials & International Tactics In Time (SUBMIT IT) Act in early February. It would keep presidents from doing the State of the Union (SOTU) address until they give Congress a budget request and a national security strategy.

Ernst and Carter’s SUBMIT IT Act would withhold a major media opportunity for presidents until Congress gets what it needs to do its job. The SOTU is an important speech before a joint session of Congress with Supreme Court justices, cabinet officials, and other guests in the House chamber. Presidents get to promote their proposals with millions tuning in.

The SUBMIT IT Act would use the SOTU to help Congress advance annual budget legislation and security authorization bills. Congress rarely embraces the president’s sweeping proposals in his budget request and security strategy, but each report includes useful information that helps Congress plan. Consistent and timely executive branch materials would, in turn, reduce excuses and pressure Congress to do its work reliably.

Federal law requires presidents to submit a budget request and a national security strategy on the first Monday in February. Presidents routinely miss this toothless deadline. None of Biden’s or Trump’s budget requests have been on time, nor were six of Obama’s eight.

The national security strategy is even more sporadic. Since 1986, federal law requires a new security strategy every year on the same day as the budget request. It should: national security and budgets affect each other. Yet presidents have gotten away with skipping reports (see Table 1), which they send to Congress with inconsistent timing.

Table 1. Presidents ignore annual requirement for national security strategies


Remarkably, Congress keeps letting presidents do the SOTU before they get the reports. Figure 1 shows the timing of the SOTU and Congress getting the president’s budget request compared to the first Monday in February due date. The Ernst-Carter bill would flip the timing.

Figure 1. Congress gets budget request after SOTU

Source: OMB, American Presidency Project

This approach should apply to a new president too. An incoming administration has nearly three months between the election and the reports’ due date to weave its priorities into the budget. Besides, a president can later recommend to Congress’ consideration anything that gets left out of the budget request or security strategy.

Ernst and Carter’s SUBMIT IT Act would help the business of Congress get started on time. It would shift Congress back toward the center of our constitutional system and help hold presidents accountable.

Additional supports for federal budget and authorization legislation could do even more to get Congress to be the functional legislature we need. Such a Congress would be a better place for members to serve and would deliver better results for the American people.