Fact check: Reid overstates claim on emergency spending offsets
January 7th, 2014
02:43 PM ET
7 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. Rudy NYC

    This article would be even more interesting if only the "CNN Political Unit" would fact check any of the Republicans' claims.

    January 7, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Oh brother. Smell that? That's the smell of Teatroll clickbait.

    January 7, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. yolanda

    Yeah Rudy, CNN is SO Republican-biased. Reid screwed up. No big deal. Both sides do it. Lose the indignation.

    January 7, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Fact Check & CNN don't belong in the same sentence.

    January 7, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. ProudDem

    Countdown to yet ANOTHER reference to pollitifacts lie of the year....3....2.....1

    January 7, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "if only the "CNN Political Unit" would fact check any of the Republicans' claims."

    Based on CNN's reporting over the past several years, one would think they'd never heard of the Congressional Research Service, which has consistently been publishing studies that disprove all sorts of crap the GOP/Teatrolls have been spewing the past 5 years in order to drum up controversy and radicalize their base. Suddenly, CNN discovers its existence in order to knit-pick something rather unimportant that Reid said and for which there are a couple of minor exceptions. Not to mention the fact that he may very well have been speaking more colloquially when using the word "emergency," which has a pretty technical meaning when used in appropriations bills and is often used merely as a means of getting around lengthier procedural requirements even when there's no real "emergency."

    Which Congressional Research Service study will we be delving into next, CNN? The one showing that UI prevented about 3.3M people from falling into poverty in 2009 and that the poverty rate for families receiving it is about half that of those who aren't? How about the one showing that the automatic cuts triggered by Sequester, which the GOP/Teatrolls' triggered by refusing to compromise or negotiate because they saw it as a way to set the new normal for budget levels...it cost us 1.4M jobs in 2013...wanna report on that CRS study? Maybe the one that warned the GOP/Teatrolls that shutting down the gov't would not work to shut down the ACA? Or hey, how about my personal favorite, the one that went back all the way to the 50's and found that there is ZERO evidence that tax cuts for the wealthy actually spur economic growth, disproving the backbone of GOP/Teatroll economic policy? I can keep going if you'd like....

    January 7, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Tampa Tim

    I do wonder if CNN could find the time to fact check Rand Paul's erroneous claims about unemployment benefits and long term unemployment.

    January 7, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    The house has decided to work? only 97 days until the November election. They usually put in arduous 4? hour work days. Boehner makes over $200,000 a year, which means he makes $2000 a day, or approximately $500 per hour. At minimum wage a person would work almost 9 eight hour days to make Boehner's hourly wage.

    January 7, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Moderately Amused

    This article would be even more interesting if only the "CNN Political Unit" would fact check any of the Republicans' claims.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    I love how Rudy claims to be a moderate over and over to suit his agenda but never seems to post anything other then LWNJ parroting points...

    January 7, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Congressional Liar

    And Reid got caught in yet another lie.........they just keep piling up!!!

    January 7, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "Of course it works that way! Thje government is BORROWING money, adding debt that must be repaid by taxpayers. The money comes OUT of the economy in the future and goes into tax payments which goes to repaying the debt.

    There is no free lunch as you would suggest. ANd by all means, please do educate us all on how YOU think it works! Do unicorns suddenly appear and repay the debt? Just as feasible as most of your other commentary."

    1. I happen to be more than willing to offset the spending rather than borrow...by cutting corporate welfare to massive industries that report record profits during a massive recession or tax loopholes that only inure to the wealthy.

    2. Correct. There is no free lunch. I'm not suggesting there is at all. You pay for it by either making appropriate offsets to unnecessary, inequitable expenditures (see #1) or by raising revenues. Instead, we have been cutting revenues for several decades and now have the lowest tax rates in over 50 years. The absolutist, dogmatic, ideological refusal to raise tax revenues and block any attempt to do so has, in fact, been the greatest cause of our debts in that period of time. Hands down. The numbers don't lie. The overall point is, you use the tools available to you to shore up demand and economic growth and then, when you oh, I dunno, have something like a surplus, you PAY DOWN THE DEBT INSTEAD OF HANDING IT ALL OUT IN THE FORM OF TAX CUTS.

    3. No matter how you slice it, the math still shows that it was AND STILL IS the Bush tax cuts, the unfunded wars, the decrease in revenue caused by the recession and the unemployment it caused and unfunded Medicare Part D that are and remain the main causes of the debt and its continued accumulation. Those aren't Obama's policies. Moreover, things like the Bush tax cuts only continued to exist because the GOP/Teatrolls rabidly defended them.

    January 7, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. Brian

    A politician overstating a claim...and so it begins with the first of many from both sides in 2014.

    January 7, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. O'drama ya Mama

    Rudy NYC

    This article would be even more interesting if only the "CNN Political Unit" would fact check any of the Republicans' claims.
    January 7, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    CNN has finally realized they will get more hits on the message boards if they pander to the RWNJ.

    January 7, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. sifto

    republicans are not the problem, rudy nyc..none of Dem fixes have worked–where and who do you think all this money comes from? we will soon run out and stop working if we have to keep paying for dems to get re-elected so they can continue to promote nanny state....you can't think the wealthy reid cares about the unemployed?

    January 7, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. bkruse

    Maybe they do fact check the Republicans but don't find any lies.

    January 7, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Mikey

    So, offsets can be revenue increases or spending cuts. Perhaps we should cut defense spending. There is no reason for us to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined, especially since a few of the other big spenders are allies.

    A 1% cut in defense would pay for the extension of benefits. Would could start with that plane that Congress won't get rid of, the DoD says they don't need, where two completely different engines are being built – one in Boehner's district and one in Cantor's. How about cutting that pork barrel boondoggle?

    January 7, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. Mikey

    @bkruse – "Maybe they do fact check the Republicans but don't find any lies."
    ***********************************
    Thanks. I haven't had a laugh like that in a while.

    January 7, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Maybe they do fact check the Republicans but don't find any lies."

    Funniest thing I've read all day.

    January 7, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  19. Jabbadahut

    Is anyone surprised at the ignorance?

    January 7, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. tom l

    @Sniffit
    "Instead, we have been cutting revenues for several decades and now have the lowest tax rates in over 50 years"

    =============

    From 2002-2008 revenues to the US govt went up every year. Revenues went down in 2009 due to the economy. 2010 was higher than 2009. 2011 was higher than 2010. 2012 was higher than 2011 and was up over 15% from where revenues were in 2010. Revenues for 2013 are projected to be at record levels up over 10% from last year. 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.

    January 7, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  21. just asking

    translation: harry reid got caught lying through his teeth again. lies and deceit are all the democrats have at this point. their policies have been a total failure. they think they can just continue to lie their way through everything.

    January 7, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Tampa Tim

    I do wonder if CNN could find the time to fact check Rand Paul's erroneous claims about unemployment benefits and long term unemployment.
    --------------------–
    Nahp. The economist who produced the study that Paul cites to support his claim has told Paul that he's drawing conclusions that are the exact opposite of his study, and to cease and desist from citing his study.

    January 7, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  23. king

    reid you need to stop fighting for these backward people, they are set to have a massive repubs take over in congress, because they lesson to the likes of fox news and their rich corporate host. still fox news refuse to hire one dem to offset their mountain of right winged propaganda they love to spread. reid you need to know that these same people will devastate the house dems just like they did in 2010 and will almost certain to give the repubs the senate too. its time you realize that these backward people doesn't want country wide healthcare for them nor this country's future generations. they dont want the minimum employment rates to raise, because they want their next generations to live dirt poor to satisfy the repubs corporations that are sucking money and jobs out of our economy to build china into a super power. greed runs the repubs and because their propaganda machine has no match, they feel they can drag the american people, then tell them it is good for them. stop fighting for these people reid.

    January 7, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Donna

    tom l
    @Sniffit
    "Instead, we have been cutting revenues for several decades and now have the lowest tax rates in over 50 years"
    =============
    From 2002-2008 revenues to the US govt went up every year. Revenues went down in 2009 due to the economy. 2010 was higher than 2009. 2011 was higher than 2010. 2012 was higher than 2011 and was up over 15% from where revenues were in 2010. Revenues for 2013 are projected to be at record levels up over 10% from last year. 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 fact is that no matter how much the government takes in, it will always be a trillion less than the Democrats want to spend. And it will always becuase the rich working people aren't paying enough taxes to make up for the ever growing percentage that pay nothing, or worse, live off the few paying taxes.

    January 7, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "From 2002-2008 revenues to the US govt went up every year. "

    You miss the point, tom, but I should probably have been more specific. The rate dropped. Just because revenue still went up, because the population grew, the number of jobs grew, inflation exists, etc., doesn't mean that we're still collecting sufficient revenue to service the country's needs.

    "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 precisely the point and holds all the water. If revenues do not grow in a sufficiently proportionate rate to the growing, changing needs of the population and its circumstances, because we keep lowering the rate on the theory that $X is always sufficient revenue or that revenue growth can be kept to a rate that doesn't keep up with the rate of necessary spending, then it creates a problem. Just because revenue grew doesn't mean "problem solved." It has to grow ENOUGH.

    January 7, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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