Senate Disaster Supplemental Would Add Billions of Dollars to Deficit Spending | Citizens Against Government Waste

Senate Disaster Supplemental Would Add Billions of Dollars to Deficit Spending

The WasteWatcher

The Senate is considering another poorly designed disaster aid package.  With a price tag of $13.5 billion, the Senate intends to use the bill’s disaster and emergency spending designation as a way to circumvent the spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  The bill will boost funding for programs that are not intended to respond to natural disasters.

An Office of Management and Budget definition on what qualifies for emergency spending was published in 1991, and it stipulates that such spending must be necessary; sudden; urgent; unforeseen; and not permanent.

Unfortunately, the disaster supplemental being debated in the Senate is capitalizing on a disaster to give more taxpayer dollars to special interests who don’t need the money.  For example, most damages and losses in Midwestern agriculture communities are already covered by other federal programs.  The additional $3 billion this disaster package gives to farm businesses is unneeded and unjustifiable.  Standing disaster programs reauthorized by last year’s Farm Bill already cover the crop and livestock losses.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Community Development Block Grants already cover the infrastructure damage.  The Army Corps of Engineers already cover the damages to water resources and flood controls.

Congress is using the pretext of a disaster as an excuse to spend more money.  For example, the Army Corps of Engineers already received $7 billion for FY2019 through the regular appropriations process.  This disaster supplemental would give the corps an additional $1.25 billion for new projects and repairs.

Senate passage will likely lead to conference negotiations with the House of Representatives.  The House already passed its version back in January.  The Senate is using the House’s bill as a shell, but Senators are expected to swap in a proposal from Senator Shelby before the final vote.

On Tuesday, Evan Hollander, spokesman for the Democratically-led House Appropriations Committee, said that House Democrats “will insist on going to conference” to increase funding for various programs such as $68 million in Medicaid assistance for American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The federal government has a legitimate role in responding to natural disasters; however, Congress should fund disaster response needs through base agency budgets, not with uncapped spending.  Funding disaster response through the regular appropriations process would lead to a quicker reaction time by the government, and it would save taxpayers money by instituting more cost discipline.