Bloated House $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package Puts Americans Last

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

Bloated House $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package Puts Americans Last

May 17th, 2022 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Jay Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute

James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speak during a news conference on April 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The package is too large, too bloated, and completely lacking in strategy.

The way this administration and Congress spend money—without accountability, transparency, or making offsetting cuts—is morally wrong and fiscally foolish.

Meaningful oversight and accountability must be attached to any new funds sent to support Ukraine, not just the same toothless, boilerplate language.

When it comes to foreign policy, our elected officials should be focused on one thing above all else—keeping America free, safe, and prosperous. The standard for American leadership is 3 for 3. Sadly, President Biden is on track to go 0 for 3. 

The president’s proposed supplemental appropriation for supporting Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion fails to meet these criteria—and Congress has willingly gone along with the ruse. 

All reasonable Americans agree that the federal government has a moral and constitutional responsibility to put Americans and our interests first in both domestic and foreign policy. 

The package is too large, too bloated, and completely lacking in strategy. By proposing such a package, Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are forcing Americans to choose between advancing our interests abroad and governing responsibly here at home.

Talk about a false dilemma.

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Let’s start with some basics. Continued support for Ukraine's self-defense against Russia is in U.S. interests. Russia’s use of military force to redraw sovereign borders in modern Europe has global consequences, including making President Biden’s self-inflicted economic crisis even worse back home.

Putin’s dangerous designs do not stop with Ukraine. Putin is also China’s stalking horse. Beijing and Moscow both want Europe divided, weakened, and distracted, and American alone, isolated, and vulnerable on the world stage. Thwarting this ambition by supporting Ukraine makes sense. 

However, it is just as true that the $40 billion proposal is fiscally irresponsible and the epitome of everything that is wrong with how Washington works today.

The administration and Congress can, and must, do better.

For decades, the Heritage Foundation has been a fierce proponent of peace through strength, and an unquestioned advocate of fiscal responsibility, even as others in Washington found excuses to abandon both.

We want the U.S. government to support the people of Ukraine, help them repel Russians, and project American power in a way that sends a signal of strength and resolve to Moscow, Beijing, and our other global adversaries.

It is hard to do so, however, when our leaders in Washington put forward proposals that spend billions of dollars we don’t have on things the American people don’t support. This is particularly salient at a time when Congress has failed to secure our own border, but is far too willing to spend tens of billions of dollars securing Ukraine’s borders. 

So, what are the problems with this proposal? A quick look at both process and policy reveals some troubling answers.

First, House leaders gave members only a few hours to review the proposal before voting. This should be a red flag to everyone that there are problematic proposals buried in this spending package that leadership didn’t want Americans to have time to find.

Second, even as inflation surges to record highs and Americans are suffering from higher prices on just about everything, Washington cannot seem to curb its addition to reckless spending that isn’t offset.

Principled objections to the bill’s price tag have been met with scorn by many in the Washington establishment, for many of whom "fiscal responsibility" is a little more than a bumper-sticker slogan. The stock answer in Washington is that the current crisis is too important to honor previous promises or pass needed reforms. That’s why nothing changes.

Adding insult, Congress is spending even more money than the president requested. 

Across the board, the way this administration and Congress spend money—without accountability, transparency, or making offsetting cuts—is morally wrong and fiscally foolish.

Third, while the bill contains important spending that will bolster Ukraine’s defenses, it also authorizes nearly a billion dollars in unlawful immigration benefits, and roughly $9 billion for things like funding Ukrainian government officials’ salaries and pensions.

If we truly want to help Ukraine achieve victory in its immediate crisis—and we should—our response should be focused squarely on that effort, not helping pay foreign bureaucrats’ retirement bills.

Ultimately, it should never be the responsibility of experts at The Heritage Foundation, or anyone in the conservative movement, to rubberstamp the agenda of the elites in Washington simply because they yell "crisis!"

There is a third way. Ronald Reagan’s vision of peace through strength can be applied in the 21st century. There is an appropriate way to support Ukraine with additional military resources. 

Congress and Biden should identify the lower-priority programs in this year’s $5.5 trillion budget that will be cut to pay for any new spending in support of Ukraine. The Heritage Foundation’s Budget Blueprint has made innumerable suggestions.

>>> Congress Must Carefully Review Any Ukraine Spending Package

The price tag also needs to come down. We could effectively help arm Ukraine and advance U.S. national security interests with a package focused on the job at hand. 

Congress and the White House should also be required to provide a detailed justification for all the spending proposed in this package. Meaningful oversight and accountability must be attached to any new funds sent to support Ukraine, not just the same toothless, boilerplate language that allows politicians to claim they’re looking out for taxpayers. 

The president’s approach to Russia has been a failure from day one. His leadership in supporting Ukraine has been lacking, and that lack of leadership is reflected in the policymaking process on Capitol Hill in recent days.

Let’s talk about a realistic plan and a real strategy to counter America’s adversaries. Let’s require re-allocation of resources commensurate with a realistic plan. And instead of policies that make us weaker on the world stage, let’s implement policies that secure our borders, empower domestic energy production, and get our economy roaring again.

It’s what a strong America at home and abroad means.

This piece originally appeared in Fox News