August 27, 2014

‘Emergency’ Designation Is Not for Regular Spending

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

Lawmakers must carefully review President Obama’s request for “emergency” funding this year to fight wildfires, increase border security and deal with a surge of migrants from Central America.

The President has asked for $3.7 billion to improve border security while addressing the “urgent humanitarian situation” involving migrants -- particularly children -- along the Rio Grande Valley. He also requested an additional $615 million for wildfire suppression.

Elected officials should be cautious about emergency designations, which exempt spending from budget caps and should be reserved for projects that are sudden, urgent, necessary, unexpected and temporary.

That designation for fighting wildfires certainly seems questionable. Policymakers have long under-budgeted for such disaster-related work and then used the resulting shortfall to get around budget caps.

On the southern border, Washington should respond quickly to legitimate humanitarian concerns. Much of what the President is asking for, however, seems to go beyond temporary needs and should be handled through regular appropriations.