Follow the money. Joe Biden and his administration have tried claiming that they have the southern border under control, but Politico takes a peek at the emergency measures the White House has been forced to adopt. In recent months, HHS has redirected over $2 billion in funds meant to deal with the pandemic to the child-migration crisis:
The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, as the Biden administration grapples with a record influx of migrants on the southern border.
The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response. Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The reshuffling, which HHS detailed to congressional appropriators in notices over the last two months, illustrates the extraordinary financial toll that sheltering more than 20,000 unaccompanied children has taken on the department so far this year, as it scrambled to open emergency housing and add staff and services across the country.
As Politico’s Adam Cancryn points out, the total amount of redirected funds outstrips the annual appropriation for dealing with unaccompanied minors crossing the border. And that doesn’t count another tranche of nearly a half-billion dollars that HHS redirected from other programs. The Biden administration has done all of this while insisting that the border surge is no crisis, claiming that it’s merely a cyclical phenomenon.
If it’s not a crisis, why is HHS pulling two billion dollars from another crisis to deal with the border? And why is HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra demanding more money from Congress for the Strategic National Stockpile and COVID-19 testing while robbing those funds to deal with an alleged non-crisis at the border?
“The fight against Covid-19 is not yet over,” Becerra testified to a House panel on Wednesday in defense of a budget request that would allocate $905 million for the stockpile. “Even as HHS works to beat this pandemic, we are also preparing for the next public health crisis.”
Becerra later stressed the need to “make sure we’ve got the resources” to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile, which came under scrutiny early in the pandemic after officials discovered it lacked anywhere near the amount of protective equipment and medical supplies needed to respond to the crisis.
While it’s true that Becerra has the authority to redirect funds within HHS, this raises a serious question about Becerra’s honesty in congressional testimony. It has the appearance of a shell game or playing a bait-and-switch trick on Congress. At the same time Becerra is begging Congress for more funding for these programs, he’s draining their accounts to fund the border-crisis response.
Why not just ask for more funding directly for the unaccompanied-minor programs at HHS? Because if Becerra had asked Congress for more funding in those programs, he and the White House would have had to admit to the scope of the crisis on the southern border. This is a deliberate deception, a cover-up that might not rise to a criminal nature but nonetheless shows Biden and his team thumbing their noses at congressional authority.
Perhaps the Senate might want to take a look at Becerra’s deception. That might not happen unless and until the GOP takes back control of the upper chamber, of course. Choose accordingly in 2022.