The New Year Is a New Chance to Restore Fiscal Sanity | Citizens Against Government Waste

The New Year Is a New Chance to Restore Fiscal Sanity

The WasteWatcher

The start of a new year presents Congress with an opportunity to focus on new policies and priorities.  After 2021 was marked by massive spending bills, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act, and the $1.75 trillion House-passed Build Back Better Act, 2022 should be a year for Congress to get the nation’s fiscal house in order and pass legislation that reduces wasteful spending and makes the government more effective and efficient instead of adding to the $29 trillion national debt. 

The first step toward fiscal sanity is to defeat the Build Back Better Act in the Senate.  This massive tax and spending bill, which the Congressional Budget Office determined would cost $4.9 trillion  rather than $1.75 trillion, hit a brick wall in the Senate when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) said that he would not support the bill.  But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has doubled down and said that he will bring the legislation to the floor and will vote on it repeatedly “until we get something done.”  Even though this disastrous legislation looks like it is dead, the Senate should put the final nail in its coffin by voting it down. 

 Once that happens, Congress should take a break on spending and demand increased transparency on how COVID-19 relief money is being spent.  Since the start of the pandemic, Congress has authorized $4.6 trillion in response to the pandemic, including $1.9 trillion appropriated in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2020, and at least $1 trillion of that money has yet to be spent. 

As one example of where the money is not being made available, Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) wrote a letter on January 11, 2021, to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking for more information about the $266 billion appropriated for education, of which $191 billion, or 72 percent, remained unspent by the end of 2021.  Their request was certainly timely, as the White House is ready to request another round of tens of billions more for COVID-19 “relief.”  Before members of Congress agree to spend more taxpayer money, they should ensure that everything that was previously allocated is used up. 

 The next step after that is for Congress to start following its budget rules.  The last time Congress passed all 12 appropriations bills on time was in 1998, and since that time there have been 119 continuing resolutions to keep the government open.  It doesn’t seem likely that this trend will end anytime soon.  In December, Congress passed another CR to keep the government running until February 18, 2022.  Even though that deadline is a little over a month away, no real progress has been made on any of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills.  It is possible that Congress will once again fail to fulfill one of its most basic functions and end up passing another full-year CR.  The more fiscally responsible action would be make passing the appropriations bills on time a priority in 2022.  

 Passing CRs does not allow Congress to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending.  Even if only a few of the 580 recommendations that would save taxpayers $370.1 billion in the first year and $4 trillion over five years that are included in Citizens Against Government Waste’s Prime Cuts are passed by Congress, taxpayers would be better off.  For example, Congress could agree to reduce Medicare improper payments, which would save $12.5 billion over five years; sell excess real property, which would save $15 billion over five years; eliminate earmarks for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, which would save $8.5 billion over five years; and terminate the sugar, dairy, and peanut programs, which would save $6.7 billion over five years.

The unprecedented amount of federal spending in 2021 has caused Americans to suffer from the highest inflation in 40 years.  They are paying far more for gas, groceries, and home energy bills  In 2022, Congress should stop talking about spending more money and instead resolve to focus on policies that are fiscally responsible and alleviate the adverse impact of runaway government spending.