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On December 11, 1985, Congress passed the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. This bill, popularly known as Gramm-Rudman-Hoilings, was signed by the president on December 12.

The act represents a dramatic departure from traditional approaches to budgeting and fiscal policy. The merits of the new approach have been widely debated, and the purpose of this article is not to judge the process, but rather to describe it and to offer one explanation of how it came into existence.