NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Avoiding Budget Caps In An "Emergency"

July 29, 1999

Capitol Hill observers report Congress is increasingly invoking the specter of a national "emergency" to by-pass budget caps it imposed in 1997.

Here are some of the budget items Congress is classifying as emergency spending.

  • Even though the national census is conducted every 10 years, $4.5 billion to fund the 2000 enumeration is being justified as an emergency.
  • Ditto on $3 billion for veterans' health care -- even though the number of veterans qualifying for health care is declining.
  • It's also the same for $2.5 billion to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Congress is considering invoking the term emergency to cover these spending areas:

  • Social Security administrative costs to the tune of $6.9 billion.
  • Some $10 billion to $14 billion directed to farm aid -- on top of the $6 billion in emergency funds spent last year.

In the past year, Congress spent $35 billion beyond the normal budget on "emergencies." The funds went for beefed up embassy security, farm aid, the government's Y2K problem and the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Bombing the Balkans and disaster relief claimed another $9 billion.

Source: Editorial, "Budget Tricksters at Work," Investor's Business Daily, July 29, 1999.


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