Romney, Braun Reintroduce Legislation to Require Congress to Budget for Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mike Braun (R-IN) today reintroduced the Budgeting for Disasters Act, legislation which would require Congress to better prepare for natural emergencies by making future disaster funding fall within statutory budget limits. Text of the legislation can be found here.

“For too long, Congress has failed to account for natural disasters when crafting the budget, which results in billions of dollars being borrowed and added to the national debt each year,” Senator Romney said. “By building disaster spending into the annual budget process, our bill will help ensure that funding is readily available to communities for disaster relief during these emergencies, while also saving taxpayers billions of dollars in avoidable spending.”

“In the private sector we budget for rainy days or offset unexpected expenditures with spending cuts and the same principles should apply to Congress. By incorporating disaster spending into the annual budget we can help Americans with disaster assistance without the process becoming a pathway for runaway spending on unrelated projects,” Senator Braun said.


The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) placed caps on discretionary spending for 10 years, which many at the time saw as an important way to discipline federal spending. However, the BCA also allowed Congress to use special statutory “adjustments” to increase spending outside the caps for disasters. The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 reinstated caps on discretionary spending for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, while still allowing for disaster spending outside the statutory caps. The three mechanisms by which these caps can be adjusted are for emergency, disaster relief, and wildfire suppression.

Between 2012 and 2021, Congress spent more than $400 billion outside discretionary spending caps on emergency and disaster relief. Disasters will continue to strike each year, and Congress should plan for them in advance. Bringing disaster and wildfire spending inside the budget caps is a practical first step as Congress explores way to reform its emergency spending.

Specifically, the Budgeting for Disasters Act would: 

  • Remove the disaster relief and wildfire suppression upward adjustments to discretionary spending caps;
  • Raise the threshold to waive a point of order that an emergency designation is outside the budget caps from 60 votes to 67 votes in the Senate;
  • Require a GAO study to review the relationship between emergency and disaster relief spending, including recommendations to reform qualifications for emergency spending; and
  • Take effect in 2025, allowing Congress ample time to implement changes.