Is building an embassy really an emergency?
The US Senate voted Wednesday to approve $592 million for a new embassy in Baghdad as part of the emergency supplemental spending bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan working its way through Congress. The House approved its version of the bill on March 16th.
In the past, natural disasters or unforeseen military action required Congress to pass emergency legislation appropriating money to meet the need. However, in recent years, “emergency” legislation has been used to fund special projects and circumvent the federal budget.
Let’s take a closer look at the emergency spending bill working through Congress. Though many extraneous measures were stricken from the bill each of the following provisions are included in either the House –passed, Senate –passed versions, or both versions of the bill:
• $592 million in funding for the construction of a new U.S. embassy in Baghdad
• $594 million for counternarcotics efforts and police training in Afghanistan
• $372 million for health and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan
• $656 million for tsunami disaster relief
• $17 million for security for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government
• $81.4 billion for disaster relief and refugee assistance in Sudan
• $14.5 million for new tsunami-detection buoys in the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico
• $580 million for peacekeeping missions.
• Provisions that increase Servicemember Group Life Insurance benefits from $250,000 to $400,000
• Provisions that increase the one-time death benefit from $12,000 to $100,000 for members of the military
• $470 million for food aid for developing nations (Senate version; only $150 million in the House version)
• $390 million to boost U.S. border security
According to CongressDaily (sorry, subscription required, can’t provide the link),
“the bill contains large sums for Pentagon programs that will stretch far beyond this fiscal year, such as the modernization and restructuring of combat arms, as well as billions for 'quality of life' improvements for military members and their families and the replacement of worn-out or destroyed equipment.”
As these provisions are categorized as “emergency spending” they are not subject to the regular appropriations process and do not count against the federal budget. While the Yellow Line supports these worthy projects, we believe that only true emergency measures should be included in the supplemental bill.
These measures should be subject to the same process as other federal expenditures. Or perhaps Congress and the Administration can adopt an “emergency measure” to ensure that our nation’s schools and health care systems receive the funding that they also desperately need?
The House Appropriations Committee passed version of the emergency supplemental is here. The Senate version is here.