Congress Should not Use Ukraine As an Excuse to Fund a Socialist Agenda | Citizens Against Government Waste

Congress Should not Use Ukraine As an Excuse to Fund a Socialist Agenda

The WasteWatcher

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This axiom has been embraced by Congress to the fullest extent, as more than $4.6 trillion has been approved in the name of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a significant expansion of the size, scope, and power of the federal government. 

On February 17, 2022, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through March 11, 2022.  Another CR, or passage of some or all of the 12 appropriations bills, will be needed to avoid a government shutdown at midnight on that day.  Money for Ukraine should be provided by Congress, but it should be enacted as a separate supplemental appropriation rather than attached to a CR or other appropriation bills.  If it is not enacted on its own, the chances for Congress to include other excessive and unrelated spending to a CR or an omnibus appropriations package, including provisions from the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) is substantial. 

Congress’s potential to use Ukraine funding as an instrument to pass provisions from the failed BBBA is not unrealistic.  It would be wrong to do so, not just because Russia’s war on Ukraine is a significant and separate matter, but also because the BBBA is full of regressive taxes and big government socialism aimed at solving problems caused by the government in the first place. 

As record-high inflation hits Americans hard and the impact of the dramatic oil price increase being cause by Russia’s war against Ukraine is just beginning to be felt, it would be far worse if BBBA taxes that will disproportionally impact the poor, like a nicotine tax, are added to a Ukraine funding bill.  The BBBA includes an excise tax of $1.01 per pack on e-cigarettes, vaping liquids, and oral nicotine pouches.  This tax would harm public health by taxing tobacco harm reduction products Americans use to quit smoking for good.  More than 3 million U.S. adults used (THR) products to quit smoking from 2007 to 2015. 

Another egregious tax found in the original BBBA that could be added to Ukraine funding is an $8 billion methane tax.  Every American who uses natural gas to heat their home or business would be hit with a price increase.  This provision will also stifle American energy production at a time when it is sorely needed. 

The healthcare provisions from the BBBA, if added to Ukraine funding, will have devastating consequences.  The price controls will devastate the medical marketplace resulting in fewer future cures.  An August 2021 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Simulation Model of New Drug Development report projected that H.R. 3, on which the provisions of the BBBA are based, will decrease new drugs entering the marketplace by 8 percent in the third decade, resulting in at least 60 lost treatments.  In a University of Chicago November 29, 2021 issue brief, economists Dr. Thomas Philipson and Troy Durie found that the BBBA would adversely affect the number of new drugs brought to market at a rate 27 times greater than the conservative CBO prediction. 

The BBBA also includes Medicaid expansion provisions that would automatically opt in the 12 holdout states.  The bill includes federal funding of the program in these states for three years but forces states to cover the cost after 2025 from their own budgets, meaning the taxpayers will have to make up the costs that the federal government will no longer pay.  

These disastrous policies are some of the worst in the BBBA.  They distort the marketplace and disproportionally impact the poor, moving more Americans on government systems, which is the ultimate goal of the drafters of the BBBA.  If any of these provisions are passed, they will push the country further into debt.  

Using Ukraine funding to pass any of the provisions that previously failed in the BBBA would be typical of how Congress uses a crisis as an excuse to achieve unrelated (and sometimes otherwise unachievable) objectives, but it would also be disgraceful under the present circumstances.  Russia’s war against Ukraine deserves its own debate and funding so that the United States can make its response very clear and without any unrelated provisions attached to such a bill. 

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