(CNN) – As Congress debates a proposed $6.4 billion package extending unemployment insurance benefits for another three months, Democratic and Republican leaders continue to argue over whether the additional spending should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told CNN that Congress has "never offset emergency spending."
"That's foolishness," he declared.
Actually, Congress has used offsets for emergency spending before.
For example, a 2012 Congressional Research Service report on unanticipated extra spending by the Federal Emergency Management Agency noted that "supplemental spending packages have at times carried rescissions that have offset, to one degree or another, their budgetary impact."
Translated into English, that means extra FEMA spending has at least on occasion been partly paid for by spending cuts somewhere else.
The CRS report noted that, dating back to Fiscal Year 1990, there has been one case in which supplemental funding for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund was completely offset by cuts somewhere else.
What about past extensions of unemployment benefits? Have those been paid for?
Usually not, but there are exceptions to that rule.
National Journal's Fawn Johnson reported Monday that three recent exceptions "were in 2009, 2011, and 2012, when the extensions were part of larger legislative packages that included tax offsets."
"For example," she noted, "the 2009 unemployment extension was part of the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act."
In short, Reid would have been right if he said Congress usually doesn't pass offsets for emergency spending.
But saying Congress never does so?