Fact check: Reid overstates claim on emergency spending offsets
January 7th, 2014
02:43 PM ET
3 months ago

Fact check: Reid overstates claim on emergency spending offsets

(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?

That's foolishness.


Filed under: Congress • Harry Reid
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "Your "percentage" argument doesn't hold water. It's phony and you are selectively using data without telling the whole story. Bottom line is the govt is getting more money than ever before. Period."

    The percentage/ratio argument is the entire point and holds all the water. Revenue needs to grow sufficiently to meet the growing and changing needs and circumstances of the population. We cannot operate on the theory that a flat $X is always sufficient and no more is necessary, no matter how the country's needs change. Nor can we operate on the theory that growth in revenue can always be limited to a maximum of X%, no matter the change in the country's needs. Just because revenue grew...and I admittedly spoke to vaguely when I mentioned that...doesn't mean "problem solved." It has to grow ENOUGH. It hasn't, and that's a direct product of the dogmatic refusal to allow it to do so.

    January 7, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. Donna

    It's Harry Reid's attempt to win 2014 Liar of the Year and take it away from Obama. It will never happen Harry. No body can possibly tell more lies than Obama. Nonetheless, the Democrats all will continue to challenge him for the title.

    January 7, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    " Your "percentage" argument doesn't hold water. It's phony and you are selectively using data without telling the whole story. Bottom line is the govt is getting more money than ever before. Period."

    It's not at all phony. It's the entire point. The population and economy and their needs grow and change. The growth in revenue must be sufficient to meet that growth. It has to grow ENOUGH. Just because it grew AT ALL, doesn't mean "problem solved." We cannot operate on a theory that says $X is always sufficient. Nor can we operate on a theory that X% in revenue growth is always sufficient. We've been cutting the rate for 50+ years while population growth, inflation, drastic economic bubbles and recessions, unfunded wars, etc., have all taken place, and you want to pretend that just because there was a net growth in revenue then there's no argument about whether that growth in revenue was sufficient? Nonsense.

    January 7, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Gunderson

    The Hell you beller,
    CNN now reporting the facts! And some of you don't like it! You can only cover up the truth for so long. Then you report it or you reputation goes down the drain. Like Obama's reputation. You can keep your Health Plan, if you like it, period. Some of you are still biting on that one. Good God people, get a life! The Liberal's have screwed the country up beyond belief. Live with it or change.

    January 7, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    Can we have a Ticker article on how broken the CNN website is because it never shows you your post, making you think you need to try reposting it? Or hey, I'd settle for an article on the great insurance enrollment numbers being reported via the federal and state exchanges...you know, the websites that suddenly stopped being a story once they were producing good news.

    January 7, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Harold Read

    New Democrat motto proposals:

    "Democrats = Lies In Action"
    "We tell you OUR version of the truth"
    "Democrats, reality and the laws we pass do not apply to us"
    "It's your fault you interpreted our lies as the truth!"

    The best: "You can keep the truth. Period."

    January 7, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote out the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Harold Read: New repub motto proposals:

    We have selective amnesia (deficits don't matter)
    IOKIYAR
    We'll give you freedom, except over your own body

    BTW, just 8 years ago, the calamitous launch of President Bush's Medicare prescription drug program left over 6M previously-insured seniors without coverage; 100K more could not get their medications as problem-plagued government computer systems, confused insurers, and under-trained pharmacists left subscribers panicked and helpless.

    Unlike today's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act by Republicans in Congress and in the states, Democrats at all levels helped the Medicare Rx program whose design they opposed.

    January 7, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote out the Repub/tea bag majority

    Hey, repubs, you want to offset the $6.4B to pay for extending these unemployment benefits?

    End the multi-billion-dollar oil industry subsidy as of today. Heck, let's make that subsidy elimination retroactive and put that money towards replacing the cuts to food stamps you all voted for earlier.

    FIFY

    January 7, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. ProudDem

    tom l

    "Your "percentage" argument doesn't hold water. It's phony and you are selectively using data without telling the whole story. Bottom line is the govt is getting more money than ever before. Period."
    _________________________________________________

    Basic finance....everything is adjusted for inflation, and for the size of the economy. We're getting WAY more tax revenues than when there were only 13 colonies too...chuckle. That's why the GDP is often used as a ruler to measure things against.

    January 7, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. ProudDem

    Harold Read

    "Democrats = Lies In Action"
    -----------------------

    Before you get all excited about Politifacts lie of the year...you might want to check last year....winner..Mitt Romney...all Jeep production being moved to China. No you say? Keep it to the ACA? Okie Dokie....2009 Winner....Sarah Palin...Death Panels....2010 Winner...the right et all, for the ACA being a "government takeover" of health insurance.

    January 7, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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