As if on cue, President Joe Biden asked the lame-duck Congress for yet another $47.7 billion supplemental spending package just as representatives and senators returned to Washington after the midterm elections.
Lawmakers should reject Biden’s spending binge.
The lame-duck period is when Congress is least accountable, taking place after the American people voted out the Democratic majority in the House in favor of a slim Republican majority. Defeated and retiring lawmakers should not be adding billions to the taxpayers’ tab, particularly after their reckless spending sparked inflation at a level not seen in four decades.
This supplemental spending request for Ukraine aid and COVID-19 funding is more than an entire year’s worth of regular appropriations for the departments of Agriculture and Interior combined.
Biden’s strategy is to attach these new spending requests onto a massive omnibus appropriations bill. A lame-duck omnibus would ram through a third year of liberal policy and inflationary spending agendas.
Given our current fiscal and economic situation, every dollar of government spending—coming on top of the $7.7 trillion spending spree since 2020—will add to inflationary pressures and burden American families.
Instead, Congress should pass a continuing resolution into next year, allowing the new 118th Congress to thoughtfully write responsible appropriations billsthat reduce spending, rein in executive overreach, protect life, and secure our borders.
Congress has already passed $66 billion in taxpayer-funded aid to Ukraine and to replenish stocks of vital ammunition and supplies for the U.S. military that Biden has transferred to Ukraine.
Congress has spent more this year on Ukraine than on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Biden is now requesting an additional $37.7 billion in Ukraine-related spending, which would bring total spending for Ukraine this year to nearly $104 billion.
The request includes $21.7 billion for defense assistance to Ukraine and replenishment of Department of Defense stocks; $14.5 billion for subsidizing the government of Ukraine and humanitarian assistance; $900 million for health and support services to Ukrainian refugees; and $626 million for nuclear security in Ukraine, as well as domestic energy resources.
The leaders of 13 conservative organizations, including Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, recently released a letter to congressional leadership urging them to reject any large assistance package in the lame-duck session. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
The letter further states that “any new aid package to Ukraine should be thoroughly debated, examined, and voted on in the 118th Congress.”
While support for Ukraine is in the U.S. national interest, Congress should ensure that any additional aid is provided in a responsible way. New appropriations must be offset by spending reductions elsewhere in the budget.
Assistance should be focused on building up the defense capabilities of Ukraine, allowing our European partners to focus on humanitarian, economic, and reconstruction assistance. Furthermore, additional aid should be contingent on a concrete strategy from the White House and accompanied by public hearings and thorough deliberation in Congress.
Office of Management Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote Tuesday to outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: “To date, roughly three-quarters of the funds previously provided by the Congress have been disbursed or committed, with even more expected by the end of the year.”
The administration must be more transparent about its spending plans and the status of already appropriated funds. Given the rate of expenditure of U.S. funds for defense-related support to Ukraine, it’s possible those funds might run out before Congress can consider the appropriation of additional funds.
If that’s the case, the administration should be asked to identify those minimum essential funds that are needed, and only those should be up for consideration.
COVID-19, Other Diseases
After $6 trillion spent since March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden is asking Congress for an additional $9.25 billion for vaccines and therapeutics domestically and abroad, as well as for researching “long COVID.”
The same day Biden requested the additional funding, the Senate passed a joint resolution that would terminate the COVID-19 emergency declaration if passed by the House and signed into law by the president. Biden himself declared “the pandemic is over” in September, although he has continued the emergency declaration.
Biden’s request also includes $400 million related to monkeypox and $350 million for hepatis C and HIV.
Congress previously rejected the $22.5 billion COVID-19 supplemental that Biden requested in March and the $26.9 billion request in September for COVID-19 and monkeypox spending. Lawmakers should reject this new spending as well.
This $47.7 billion request is only likely to be the beginning of new spending requests. In her letter to Pelosi, the OMB’s Young alluded to a forthcoming request for additional disaster spending, writing, “We are working quickly to refine the estimates of funding needs to address recent natural disasters, and we will share additional details on those anticipated needs as soon as possible.”
However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund has a balance of more than $23 billion available as of Oct. 31 for the administration to respond to disaster needs.
The Disaster Relief Fund is the government’s primary source of funding disaster response. The account is replenished each fiscal year to allow for flexible responses to disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires without the need to wait on new appropriations from Congress.
FEMA has already obligated nearly $3.5 million from the fund in response to the recent hurricanes, Ian and Fiona, that struck Florida and Puerto Rico. With the large amount in the fund already available to provide immediate assistance, Congress should carefully scrutinize any request for additional disaster spending.
Just Say No
Biden and his liberal allies in Congress, such as Pelosi, want to force through a massive spending package in the unaccountable lame-duck period.
Responsible lawmakers have the power to stop this spending binge that would worsen inflationary pressures.
Congress should reject Biden’s lame-duck supplemental request and omnibus spending bill.
Matthew Dickerson is the director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation. Reproduced with permission. Original here.