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During a speech today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said that Congress must work to improve the way it budgets for inevitable natural disasters and emergencies. He said this would allow the country to respond to natural disasters more efficiently, while also reducing the burden on American taxpayers.

“Congress should be open to any idea that could help our country better plan for the annual costs of these natural disasters,” Enzi said. “These events happen on an annual basis, and in recent years, we have had multiple natural disasters in the same fiscal year. Disaster relief funding must be built into our budgets.”

Enzi noted that since passage of the Budget Control Act in 2011, Congress has spent $250 billion outside of the act’s spending limits in response to natural disasters and other emergencies. This spending has received special designations that exempt it from the law’s spending limits, but such spending still increases the federal budget deficit. Enzi said some ideas to address this problem could be to offset emergency spending increases with spending reductions in other areas or require a dedicated fund for emergencies, similar to how some states budget for these events. 

“With our country more than $22 trillion in debt and quickly approaching $1 trillion annual deficits, we must do everything in our power to help put our country on a more fiscally sustainable path. Planning for emergencies is not a precise science, but I believe Congress can do better,” Enzi said. “While better budgeting for natural disasters won’t fix all of our financial problems, it is a good place to start.”