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How Congress Evades Spending Limits
Supplemental Crock

Veronique de Rugy in The American, a new magazine: “The new congressional leadership talks a good game about bringing back fiscal discipline and ending the culture of pork-barrel spending, but their actions demonstrate that addiction to big government is a bipartisan problem. The new supplemental spending package, which is supposedly for war costs and hurricane relief, is one unseemly case in point. Not only are House lawmakers about to approve a $124 billion bill—after adding $22 billion over the President's request—but their add-ons are classic political earmarks. Items in the bill include $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. Coli scare, $75 million  for peanut growers in Georgia, $120 million for the Gulf Coast fishing industry, and $400 million for rural schools and communities throughout the Northwest that have experienced losses in timber revenue. These are symptoms of a deeper problem: the ongoing abuse of the supplemental process. Supplemental spending, "emergency" spending in particular, has become Washington’s tool of choice for evading annual budget limits and increasing spending across the board. Funding predictable, non-emergency needs through supplementals hides skyrocketing military costs and allows Congress to boost regular appropriations for both defense and nondefense programs, thereby enabling the spending explosion of the last six years. In theory, supplemental appropriations provide additional funding to an agency during the course of a fiscal year for programs and activities that are considered too urgent to wait until the next year’s budget. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 gives emergency bills an even easier time, with special exemptions from pay-as-you-go rules. Moreover, the requests lack the level of detail needed in a responsible federal budget, making accountability more difficult—and supplemental funding is left out of the deficit projections that accompany the annual budget. Although there are no limits on the amount or type of spending that can be designated an emergency requirement, historically there has been an understanding that emergencies are sudden, urgent, unforeseen, and temporary conditions that pose a threat to life, property, or national security. Not anymore. For years, Congress has abused its emergency spending powers. But things have gotten much worse in recent years.” See the full story...

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