Joe Biden’s gargantuan $3.5 trilling dollar spending bonanza is currently bogged down in the Senate and doesn’t look as if it will be going anywhere soon. Even the slightly more modest infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate no longer looks like a sure thing. But you just know that he’s itching to start spending some money somewhere and he’d like to do it sooner rather than later. With that in mind, he sent out his acting director from the OMB to propose some spending that might not prove as controversial as his other grandiose plans. He’s looking for Congress to approve $24 billion to assist all of the states dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. On top of that, he would like another six billion to cover the costs associated with resettling thousands of Afghan refugees in the United States. The money would go into the anticipated stopgap spending bill that will need to be passed by the end of this month because there’s virtually no chance of a full 2022 budget being finished by then. (Associated Press)
The White House is asking Congress to approve an additional $24 billion in spending to handle the costs of Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters, as well as $6.4 billion for the resettlement of evacuees from Afghanistan to help with transportation, government processing and public health screenings.
Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a blog post Tuesday proposed the spending be part of a stopgap spending bill, saying “it’s clear” that Congress will need more time to pass a full 2022 budget. Continuing resolutions typically are approved by Congress to keep the government operating when the annual appropriations/spending bills have not been approved before the fiscal year ends at the end of September.
“The purpose of this guidance is to advise lawmakers on how to avoid severe disruptions to public services that could inadvertently arise from extending the previous year’s appropriations legislation without modifications,” Young wrote.
While it may be sad to think of it, we’ve gotten so used to Congress tossing around spending bills that add up to trillions of dollars each that a request for $30 billion will likely not cause many people to bat an eye. (Remember… thirty billion here, thirty billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.) And both chambers have gotten fairly good at passing barebones measures to keep the lights on in Washington.
As to the need for the funds, these are probably far less controversial than some of the other plans that have been put on the table lately. Americans remain a generally sympathetic and generous people, despite our many political divisions. Hurricane Ida really tore up a lot of areas across a huge swath of the country. Those people need help and it’s going to cost quite a bit to help them recover, so I doubt too many people will be storming their representative’s office to complain.
The Afghan refugee situation will probably be somewhat more controversial since it involves a large number of primarily Muslim immigrants. But these are allegedly the people who helped the United States for many years in Afghanistan and are facing the threat of death at the hands of the Taliban. As long as a good portion of the money is used to cover the cost of vetting them and testing and vaccinating them for COVID, that may put more of the taxpayers at ease. In fact, the lack of vetting prior to their arrival and concerns about a new wave of coronavirus infections are likely two of the bigger concerns some have had over these new arrivals.
Yes, I’m one of the people who is usually at the head of the line to complain about massive government spending bills. But even I will grudgingly admit that keeping the basic functions of the government running is a reasonable driver of appropriations. Tossing in a comparatively small amount of storm relief shouldn’t cause too many headaches. And while it’s true that a lot of those desperate Afghan refugees probably wouldn’t be jamming up the system right now if Joe Biden hadn’t messed up the troop withdrawal so badly, the current situation simply is what it is and now we have to deal with it.