Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution provides the Legislative Branch with the power of the purse by granting it the exclusive authority to designate how federal dollars may be spent via appropriations laws. Congress often includes transfer authority, which provides Executive Branch recipients of appropriations the ability to shift funds from one budget account to another. Allowing an agency to transfer funds from one non-specific appropriation to another is arguably an unconstitutional abdication of the Legislative Branch’s exclusive power over the purse strings.
Appropriations transfers are unconstitutional under the nondelegation doctrine. Certain attempts to alleviate these nondelegation concerns face further constitutional issues by running afoul of the Supreme Court’s holding in INS v. Chadha. Ultimately, however, there are few parties who could successfully gain standing to challenge the constitutionality of transfer authority, so the likelihood of addressing the constitutionality of transfer authority will require Congress acting on its own to protect its Article I, Section 9 power.
Shelby Begany Telle,
The Constitutionality of Appropriations Transfer Authority under the Nondelegation Doctrine,
Cath. U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.edu/lawreview/vol68/iss3/10