Romney, Lee, Braun, Toomey Introduce Legislation to Require Congress to Budget for Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) today introduced the Budgeting for Disasters Act, legislation that would require future disaster funding to fall within statutory budget limits. A summary of the legislation is available here.

“It is long overdue for Congress to start planning ahead for natural disasters,” Romney said. “By building disaster spending into the annual budget process, instead of busting our spending limits and adding to our national debt, our bill will both ensure that funding is available for disaster assistance and save taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”

“The federal government should not be able to avoid difficult financial realities by simply marking funds as ‘emergency’ or ‘disaster relief,’” Lee said. “We’ve seen in the last 5 years that Congress would rather borrow and spend instead of cutting wasteful, unnecessary programs and saving for a rainy day. While this bill would only impact a small portion of total federal spending, it is a step in the right direction.”

“In the private sector we budget for rainy days or offset unexpected expenditures with spending cuts and the same principles should apply to Congress,” Braun said. “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.”

“Since 2011, disaster aid packages have exceeded the statutory spending caps by a quarter of a trillion dollars,” Toomey said. “Since disaster aid funding has become an annual exercise, Congress and the president should be able to provide assistance while respecting budgetary rules. Setting an annual appropriation for disaster aid is a good place to start.”

The Budgeting for Natural 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;
  • Require a GAO study to review the relationship between emergency, disaster, and wildfire spending, including recommendations to reform qualifications for emergency spending;
  • Take effect during fiscal year 2020, allowing Congress sufficient time to implement changes.