6 Important Issues at Stake in Appropriations Bills

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

6 Important Issues at Stake in Appropriations Bills

Sep 28, 2022 6 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Matthew D. Dickerson

Director, Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget

Matthew is the director for the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on September 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will push for a big spending package in the lame-duck period after the election.

Congress should put a stop to the administrative state and rein in this executive overreach using its power of the purse.

Instead of a lame-duck liberal spending binge, the next Congress should carefully write responsible appropriations bills.

The government’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1, but as per usual, Congress has failed to complete the annual appropriations process to provide spending authority for federal agencies.

Congress will enact a continuing resolution to maintain current spending and policy, and to prevent a partial government shutdown of nonessential programs, but Americans concerned about inflation should hope that resolution extends into the new year and the new Congress.

President Joe Biden has asked for tens of billions in irresponsible additional spending and controversial policy anomalies to be attached to this last legislative vehicle leaving the station prior to the November elections, but most of these will be rejected.

The real question is what happens next.

Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will push for a big spending package in the lame-duck period after the election. That would lock in a third year of a liberal policy and inflationary spending agenda, rammed through by unaccountable members of Congress, many of whom will have been voted out of office.

Lawmakers should not rush through a massive omnibus appropriations bill that spends too much on all the wrong things, especially in a lame-duck Congress.  

Instead, the new majorities in the next Congress should take the pen and enact responsible spending bills that advance the policy priorities of the American people. That will only happen if the continuing resolution extends into at least January.

Here are six issues that are at stake in these appropriations bills:

1. Inflation and Government Spending

Inflation has hit rates not seen in four decades, thanks to excessive government spending with the Federal Reserve as an enabler. With the economy shrinking in the first half of this year, America has entered a period of stagflation, thanks to the government’s harmful policies.

The average worker has seen their inflation-adjusted income fall by $3,000 since January 2021. It is no wonder that inflation and the economy consistently rank as top issues on the minds of Americans this fall.

A massive appropriations bill that further increases government spending would add to inflationary pressures. Such a spending package should be unconscionable in this economic climate.

The most helpful thing Congress could do to turn the tide of inflation is to begin reducing spending. Simply put, the appropriations bills must spend less than the status quo, and should at least go back to the pre-pandemic spending levels.

2. Border Security

Biden’s open borders policy has been a dereliction of duty to his responsibility to keep America safe. His policy has also hurt migrants, especially children, as their parents are enticed to send their children unaccompanied across the border because they get to remain in the U.S. and receive immigration benefits. A historic 272,745 unaccompanied alien children have crossed the border since Biden took office.

Rather than funding border security measures to address the crisis and these inhumane conditions, the continuing resolution would give another nearly $1.8 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families “Refugee and Entrant Assistance.”

This will continue to fund the administration’s and nongovernmental organizations’ illegal alien smuggling and transportation operations in and throughout the U.S., resulting in even more unaccompanied alien children crossing the border and becoming sex-trafficking victims. No one should be funding this.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., recently announced that if this government funding bill does not “address the border crisis immediately,” he will oppose it and urge his GOP colleagues to as well.

Rather than give Biden the blank check he requested to fund more illegal immigration, Congress should use the appropriations bills to advance real solutions to secure the border.

The totally misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act” established an $80 billion slush fund for the Internal Revenue Service. This will add 87,000 new agents, doubling the size of the agency. This new spending comes on top of the nearly $13 billion provided annually to the IRS in the regular appropriations bills.

3. IRS Overreach

The new agents and new funding could be used to subject small businesses and middle-class taxpayers to more IRS scrutiny. This is concerning because the IRS is a scandal-ridden agency with a history of targeting the regime’s political opponents.

Congress should rescind the IRS slush fund as a part of any full year appropriations bill. Lawmakers should also use the spending bills to conduct rigorous oversight of the IRS and require strong taxpayer protections as a condition of annual funding.

4Student Loan Debt Amnesty

Biden’s student loan debt amnesty is expensive, unfair, and potentially illegal. It could cost taxpayers up to $1 trillion, according to estimates from the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

The annual appropriations bills provide office of student aid administration more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds to administer student loan servicing activities. The appropriations bills should prohibit the Department of Education from using funds to carry out Biden’s debt amnesty.

5. Rein in Executive Overreach

The Biden administration has begun a regulatory blitz, with more than 2,600 active regulatory actions, including 200 economically significant rules that are estimated to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more.

Biden’s executive actions could also cost taxpayers up to $1.5 trillion—so far.

Congress should put a stop to the administrative state and rein in this executive overreach using its power of the purse. Lawmakers can prohibit the use of funds to enforce finalized harmful regulations or to carry out pending regulatory actions. Congress can also use the spending bills to provide oversight and require accountability from the executive branch.

6. Protecting Life

At the beginning of the 117th Congress, 200 representatives and 48 senators took a stand that they would oppose any funding bill that weakened long-standing pro-life provisions

Not only have congressional liberals proposed gutting protections such as the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funds from being spent on abortions, they have advanced a radical pro-abortion agenda that is extreme and out of step with what most Americans across the political spectrum believe.  

Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report shows the organization performed 383,460 abortions in fiscal year 2020 while receiving more than $663 million in taxpayer funding. That is an injustice that must not continue. 

Not a single penny of the taxpayers’ dollars should go to the abortion industry. Lawmakers should ensure the appropriations bills protect life. 

These are just a few examples of the important policy issues that could be affected by the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process. The 12 annual spending bills cover hundreds of programs and virtually every subject that the federal government touches.

Instead of a lame-duck liberal spending binge, the next Congress should carefully write responsible appropriations bills. The Heritage Foundation’s Budget Blueprint includes more than 100 different policy recommendations for discretionary spending programs.

Lawmakers should go on offense and deliver policy victories for the American people by passing sensible spending bills in the next Congress.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal