Advancing a Free Society

“Emergency” does not mean “important”

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the latest iteration of the Senate extenders bill, an amendment by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, $58 B of spending is designated as an emergency.  This is for two types of spending:  (1) unemployment benefits, and (2) aid to States, mostly through the federal government paying a higher share of Medicaid spending.

Emergency spending is advantaged in the Congressional budget process.

  • The total amount of discretionary spending, implemented through annual appropriations bills, is capped by the annual budget resolution.  Discretionary spending designated as emergency spending does not count toward these caps.
  • Mandatory spending, most of which is for entitlement programs, is on autopilot.  Congressional budget rules require you to offset any legislative increase you propose in mandatory spending.  An emergency designation waives this requirement.   The same is true for tax cuts designated as emergencies.

There are other technical aspects of the emergency designation, but these are the most important.  This year it’s a little hinky because there is and apparently will not be a budget resolution.  The unemployment and Medicaid spending in the Baucus amendment are mandatory spending provisions.

OK, now that we know how emergency spending is advantaged, what is it?

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