02.07.2023 0

If Biden won’t tell Congress how he’s going to spend the debt ceiling increase, why should he expect Congress to hand him a blank check?

By Robert Romano

“President Biden’s failure to submit his budget to Congress by the deadline for the third year in a row, along with my Democrat colleagues’ inability to even pass a budget out of committee for the last two years, reinforces a resounding message that fiscal discipline is not their priority.”

That was House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) on Feb. 6, noting that President Joe Biden is once again late in submitting his budget to Congress as per statutory deadlines.

Every year, the President is required to submit a budget to Congress under the Budget Control Act no later than the first Monday in February, which has come and gone. It must include many items, including an all-important adjusted baseline spending projection going forward based on current laws.

Since these laws change every year, it is important that up-to-date budget projections be provided to Congress when determining, for example, whether to raise the $31.4 trillion national debt ceiling and, if so, by how much.

It will also include Biden’s proposed changes to the law to be in line with his own spending priorities, which, even though these proposals are never adopted by Congress, do act as a guideline for what the President’s party—in this case the Democrats—believe Congress ought to focusing its expenditures on.

And it will tell Congress how Biden intends to work with states to wind down the Medicaid so-called continuous enrollment provision, which thanks to the Covid economic lockdowns and temporary unemployment, qualified and kept enrolled an additional 20 million Americans into Medicaid’s government-run health care long after they likely no longer qualified on the basis of income when the economy reopened and they returned to their jobs. And, importantly, how much it will cost to do so and how many individuals in anticipates will actually be disenrolled, likely telling the American people how much of a perverse incentive not to work has been created.

In Biden’s 2023 budget submitted last year, he only anticipated a $30 billion reduction in Medicaid spending in 2023 as Covid emergency spending was being wound down. But after the $1.7 trillion omnibus lifted the prohibition on states disenrolling unqualified individuals from the program, that number should change.

In last year’s budget, Biden also reported that the national debt would reach $44.7 trillion by 2032, with no recessions or any increases in unemployment anticipated. Now, a year later, what will the economic assumptions be? The budget is not merely a statement about what the President wants to spend, it also includes a statement about the White House’s economic outlook, which is often way too rosy.

We’ll be able to see that. If it understates the growth of debt or the potential economic outlook, analysts can go in and see where the American people are being lied to.

But Biden has to first submit his budget.

In a similar vein, Biden also has not submitted his report of expenditures that have been taken under the extraordinary national emergency originally declared by former President Donald Trump in 2020. These are essentially extra-budgetary measures that are taken in addition to (or sometimes besides in the case of repurposing funds) appropriations that were enacted by Congress.

That information will advise whether or not Congress should terminate the national emergency, or if the appropriations are unconstitutional, to go even further and just repeal the National Emergencies Act since if it can completely subvert the budgetary process as written, it is almost certainly unconstitutional. All bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives, not the President’s imagination.

These are not mere niceties under law to ensure proper communication between the executive and legislative branches, they are essential to marking time on the budget so that policymakers but also media, think tanks and the like can understand what polices and expenditures are being proposed, and communicate them to the American people. This serves the purpose of keeping the electorate informed about what their government is up to.

But Biden doesn’t seem to care. He’s more interested in getting a so-called “clean” debt ceiling before any budget is submitted so these undocumented expenditures can continue unabated. If he had had his way, the debt ceiling would have already been increased.

Arrington noted the dilemma having no budget poses to the debt ceiling debate, stating, “This is the same President who has demanded a new credit card with unlimited credit in the form lifting the debt ceiling without any fiscal guardrails.”

Just consider Biden’s hubris. Under the Covid national emergency, more than $6 trillion was spent, borrowed and printed into existence at the same time as a global production halt—too much money chasing too few goods—causing inflation the likes of which has not been seen for 40 years. But Biden refuses to document it, and in addition, refuses to document simply how he plans to spend taxpayer dollars this year.

Perhaps House Republicans should take a bit more time reviewing Biden’s proposal to increase the debt ceiling. If Biden won’t tell Congress how he’s going to spend the money from the debt ceiling, why should he expect Congress to hand him a blank check?

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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