Americans for Tax Reform has long argued the federal budgeting process needs to be reformed to get rid of loopholes that allow lawmakers to skirt budgeting rules. The abuse of the “emergency” designation has been widespread – though the country has been embroiled in conflicts in the Middle East for the past decade, spending on the wars continues to be labeled as emergency (it should be noted that the largest supplementals for war spending have happened in years where Congress and/or the White House have been controlled by Democrats).
Similarly, the bank bailouts, failed “stimulus” plan and 2009 omnibus measure full of 9,000 earmarks were all passed as exigent measures, increasing spending by 84 percent from the previous year. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the exploitation of the “emergency” loophole increased deficits by $1 trillion just in the 111th Congress alone.
House Leadership has vowed to change this exploitation of budgeting rules. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Republican Leader Eric Cantor announced all disaster aid should be offset elsewhere in the bloated federal budget. The White House, which has offered plenty of platitudes on spending restraint without actually practicing it, was quick to deride this effort to rein in ballooning federal outlays.
However, the House has already passed $1 billion in offsets for disaster relief, the President's allies in the Senate have refused to consider the bill. With the latest jobs numbers proving the folly of the President’s “stimulus” program, remaining ARRA funds should be rescinded immediately, and could provide more than enough funds for the President’s estimated cost of relief. Moreover, there is no shortage of potential spending that could be repurposed for disaster relief.
While the debate over federal disaster spending illuminates a larger problem of federal munificence, it does highlight the Administration’s priorities: the President is loath to touch “stimulus” funds or other programs aimed at padding the coffers of political allies at the expense of taxpayers recovering from natural disasters. For a “federal family,” that’s certainly some tough love.