Congress Drives the "Megabus" Off the Tracks | Citizens Against Government Waste

Congress Drives the "Megabus" Off the Tracks

The WasteWatcher

Even with the national debt at more than $22 trillion and trillion-dollar annual deficits beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2022, Congress continues full-speed ahead towards another fiscal disaster.  This week’s poor spending decision comes from H.R. 2740, an appropriations “megabus.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 2740 would appropriate $982.8 billion. That’s $61.5 billion above President Trump’s FY 2020 Budget request and $29.6 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level.  The levels in the bill would also rise above discretionary spending caps under the Budget Control Act by $176 billion for FY 2020.

Beyond its budget-busting top-line, H.R. 2740 increases funding for the Obama administration’s navigators program by $100 million.  Navigator groups were designed to sign people up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. In 2013, it was estimated that taxpayers would have to pay people somewhere between $20.00 to $48.00 an hour to help citizens navigate and work their way through Obamacare to find a plan.  These navigators cannot recommend a health plan or determine if you are eligible for a specific plan. Obamacare navigators received $62.5 million in 2016 to enroll 81,426 people, only 0.7 percent of total enrollees.  Furthermore, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the Obamacare individual mandate. Since obtaining health coverage is now purely voluntary in most states, fewer people may choose to go without coverage.  According to the (CBO), eliminating the individual mandate will save the federal government approximately $338 billion over the next 10 years.

H.R. 2740 proposes $930 million for Congressionally Directed Medical Research (CDMRP).  The CDMRP is a congressional appropriation to the Department of Defense (DOD) explicitly for biomedical research in specific, congressionally identified health matters.  On June 17, 2015, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that “over the past two decades, lawmakers have appropriated nearly $7.3 billion for medical research that was ‘totally unrelated’ to the military.”  In 2010, the Pentagon withheld more than $45 million, which means those funds were unavailable for national security needs or medical research specifically affecting those serving in the military.  While support for medical research is undoubtedly a national priority, the DOD is not the appropriate federal agency to lead this effort.

H.R. 2740 also blocks the U.S. from leaving the costly 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  It has been more than two years since President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Treaty.  According to President Trump: “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers...and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”  In 2018, CAGW’s Elizabeth Wright writes that the Paris Agreement was an unrealistic goal of reducing carbon emissions that would have cost our country billions of dollars and wiped millions of jobs while fulfilling very little of its primary goal of reducing the earth’s temperature.  According to The Climate Action Tracker, most major polluters are making minimal, if any, efforts to meet their goals.  In fact, only seven countries have made commitments or efforts that would achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement.  Taxpayers should not have to pay for an agreement that is not holding other countries accountable.

While the passage of H.R. 2740 indicates business as usual in Washington, Congress can redeem itself by supporting effective cost-cutting amendments in the next appropriations “megabus.”  This includes Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) amendments to reduce spending for each division in H.R. 3055 by 14 percent.

Instead of focusing on balancing the budget and corralling the nation’s runaway debt, Congress continues to irresponsibly spend more and more.  Congress can and must shape up to put the U.S. on better financial footing instead of proposing massive spending packages that will cost taxpayers for generations to come.

-- Walter Aguilar