Blaine’s Bulletin: Appropriations
Washington, July 30, 2021
Nearly every year during the month of July the House debate and votes on appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. This July, particularly this past week followed suit. Appropriations bill fund all “discretionary spending” by the government, meaning everything except mandatory programs like Medicare, Medicare, Social Security which are automatically funded each year. Discretionary funding is broken up into twelve appropriations bills ranging from the Interior Department to the Department of Defense to the Department of Health and Human Services. Historically, the appropriations process has been done on a bipartisan basis. Sure, the majority always works to advance their priorities, but in order to build consensus (and acquire enough votes to pass it), government funding typically includes enough of the nation’s priorities to receive large majorities of support. While this year’s bills certainly cover a lot – the average increase in spending is roughly 20% per bill – the price tag plus the number of divisive and unnecessary riders in these bills made it clear there was no effort to reach consensus. And while the majority of government funding was covered, it is very noteworthy that two of the departments the House did not consider funding for were the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
I’m not saying Congress will not fund those departments next year; we will. The bills passed in the House must be negotiated with the Senate and are far from becoming law. However, not including them in the standard appropriations process increases the chances of simply extending existing funding without making the necessary changes and improvements to the two government departments charged with keeping Americans safe. Funding the Department of Defense provides critical resources for our military as we continually face threats (both physical and cyber) from countries like China, Russia, and Iran, along with battling terrorist organizations that try to attack us every day. Warfare is evolving, and it is absolutely vital we give our military the tools they need to keep up and continue defending our country.
Another area that went unfunded in the spending spree this week was the Department of Homeland Security, the first and last line of defense protecting our borders. Despite Democrats’ attempts to ignore or hide from what is happening at our southern border, it is absolutely in crisis. Deadly fentanyl seizures are up 78% from this time last year, human trafficking continues, potentially dangerous undocumented immigrants are entering our country without consequence, and families are being torn apart. And while the federal government and two cities in Missouri are back to mandating masks, hundreds of thousands of people are being allowed into our country without any knowledge of their medical condition. Like the Department of Defense, the men and women of the Border Patrol and other Homeland Security agencies are now less likely to receive the resources and improvements they need to carry out their mission next year. It is absolutely unacceptable.
Regarding what is actually in the bills, the Hyde Amendment - which has prevented taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortions for over 40 years - has been eliminated for the first time. Changes are being made to the COPS and Byrne-JAG programs, which directly support law enforcement, to make accessing the funds more difficult for local police stations. And increased government regulations are being placed on small businesses who are working so hard to stay afloat amid historic inflation and labor shortages. As these businesses continue to grapple with being understaffed and overworked, the last thing they need right now is increased government red tape taking up time and resources. While these are clearly the goals of the majority party in the House, they certainly are not mine.
A less consequential, but certainly noteworthy, provision of the package is the 13% increase in funding for Representatives’ offices. This provision clearly illustrates the unfortunate priorities of the bills’ supporters. After small businesses and families spent a year and a half figuring out how to survive with less, many of my colleagues just voted to increase their own budget by 13%. That number is not based on any sort of performance metric or need. It was just put in the bill because members of the Appropriations Committee and the Speaker decided they deserve it.
You can find all of the bills that were passed here: https://clerk.house.gov/Votes.
Funding the government is obviously essential and one of Congress’s jobs as written in the Constitution. I don’t expect a Democrat majority to write or pass conservative bills, but this year’s process paid no attention to the country’s needs and certainly ignored the record-breaking nationwide inflation levels we’re experiencing. This tax-and-spend bill exceeds even President Biden’s budget request by billions of dollars. Either through a lack of understanding or a lack of caring, if passed, these bills would continue to raise the cost of the daily essentials you buy and devalue the dollars in your pocket. Hopefully, with the long district work period coming up, a view into the real world may help some of my colleagues understand the implications of these actions and begin to think twice before acting with such reckless abandon.