May, 2008

Mercatus on Policy: What's the Emergency?

Key materials
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Rarely does a fiscal year pass without the occurrence of some type of emergency that requires a response from the federal government. When a disaster strikes, lawmakers need prompt access to federal funds. The supplemental spending process provides this access.

Supplemental bills are supposed to fund programs that cannot wait until the next appropriations cycle or programs whose authorizations were just enacted or renewed. Once a small blip among federal outlays, emergency supplemental spending has exploded since 2002 when the Republican Congress let a key legislative restriction on its use expire. Now supplemental bills are Congress and the Administration's tool of choice for avoiding the annual budget caps and dramatically increasing government spending.