GOP looks to eliminate flexibility on FEMA spending

The bill would amend the Budget Control Act (BCA), the law that Republicans and Democrats agreed to last summer as part of the debt-ceiling agreement. The BCA sets discretionary spending caps for the next decade, but allows for extra money beyond that cap for disaster aid.

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For 2012, the BCA allowed as much as $11.3 billion in extra spending, and Senate Democrats pushed to use $6.9 billion of this cushion in negotiations on fiscal 2012 spending. Congress ultimately rejected that proposal and used none of the cushion, in large part due to an announcement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that it did not need the money.

Later in the year, however, Congress approved $10.9 billion in disaster relief funding in two separate bills, and Lamborn wants to ensure that this slush fund can never be accessed in the future.

"This BCA loophole is a classic Washington budget gimmick designed to make it look like spending is lower than it really is," Lamborn said. "We are not doing the American people any favors by not being transparent and upfront with our budget. My bill would ensure that disaster relief funding is reflected in the budget and falls under the same caps as other discretionary spending."

The bill is not likely to sit well with Democrats, who pushed hard for the disaster aid cushion during the debt-ceiling talks. In addition, Republicans are already under fire for their fiscal 2013 budget resolution, which seeks to spend even less than the discretionary caps set in the BCA.

On Thursday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that proposal will make it difficult for Democrats to support any of the GOP's appropriations bills, and the White House has already said it would reject spending bills that spend less than the agreed-to levels.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reiterated the GOP position that Republicans see the levels in the BCA as a spending ceiling, and that the GOP will look to save additional federal dollars wherever possible.