Adjustments for Discretionary Spending Limits

Under section 251(b) (BBEDCA), the discretionary spending limits set forth in subsection (c) of that section, may be adjusted by the Office of Management and Budget if certain circumstances are met. Under section 251(b)(2)(A)(i), the adjustment is for spending deemed an “emergency” by the U.S. Congress, and also approved by the President. When preparing an appropriations Act, the Congress will insert text, considered to be “legislation” under Congressional rules, designating some amount of spending as emergency. OMB will raise the limits by that amount. The definition of an “emergency” may be found in section 250(c)(2) (BBEDCA).

This emergency designation only applies to discretionary spending and a corresponding designation for direct spending and revenue is set forth in the section 4(g) of the Statutory Pay-As-You Go Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-139). In addition, if a provision of law is designated as an emergency under section 251 (BBEDCA), the it will not “count” for Congressional enforcement purposes, and hence is invisible for the purposes of applying points of order. In the House, this is not true for direct spending under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 but is true for clause 10 of Rule XXI (“Paygo Point of Order”).  

See also Cap Adjustments and Emergencies.

Emergency Appropriations

The following is the legislative text for the adjustment for emergency requirements.  

(A) Emergency appropriations; overseas contingency  operations/global war on terrorism.—If, for any fiscal year, appropriations for discretionary accounts are enacted that—

(i) the Congress designates as emergency requirements in statute on an account by account basis and the President subsequently so designates, or

(ii) […]

the adjustment shall be the total of such appropriations in discretionary accounts designated as emergency requirements or for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism, as applicable.

Definition of Emergency

The following is the definition for “emergency” set forth in section 250(c)(20) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985:

(20) The term “emergency” means a situation that—

(A) requires new budget authority and outlays (or new budget authority and the outlays flowing therefrom) for the prevention or mitigation of, or response to, loss of life or property, or a threat to national security; and

(B) is unanticipated.

(21) The term “unanticipated” means that the underlying situation is—

(A) sudden, which means quickly coming into being or not building up over time;

(B) urgent, which means a pressing and compelling need requiring immediate action;

(C) unforeseen, which means not predicted or anticipated as an emerging need; and

(D) temporary, which means not of a permanent duration.

Budget Concepts from Analytical Perspectives

OMB Definition of Cap Adjustment

Cap adjustment means either an increase or a decrease that is permitted to the statutory cap limits for each fiscal year under BBEDCA on the budget authority and outlays (only if applicable) provided by discretionary appropriations only if certain conditions are met. These conditions may include providing for a base level of funding, a designation of the increase or decrease by the Congress, (and in some circumstances, the President) pursuant to a section of the BBEDCA, or a change in concepts and definitions of funding under the cap. Changes in concepts and definitions require consultation with the Congressional Appropriations and Budget Committees. See the OMB Glossary of Budget Terms.

Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2018: Analytical Perspectives (May 23, 2017), pp. 88-91.

Back to  §003. Adjustments


Adjustment for Concepts and Definitions


Adjustment for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism


[BCD § 003]