Happy Bastille Day! Today we learned that the key to the notorious French prison that gives the day its name somehow ended up at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia, where it hangs on the wall still. Who knew?
Pentagon Got $58 Billion More Than It Asked For This Year
One of the more profligate rituals in Washington in recent years involves lawmakers giving the Department of Defense even more money than it asks for. The Pentagon submits a request for hundreds of billions of dollars — for 2023, the total request comes to $773 billion — and lawmakers not only provide every dollar of it, but happily pile more cash onto the budgetary plate.
The funds typically provide fighter jets the Air Force didn’t request, warships the Navy doesn’t necessarily want and developmental funds that go toward new weapon platforms that may or may not ever be built.
In the current fiscal year, Congress added $58.55 billion to the defense budget bill. The number comes from the Pentagon itself, which for the first time was required to report the discrepancy between its budget request and the amount of funding lawmakers propose to provide.
Unrequested defense appropriations for 2022 include:
* $900 million for an additional 12 F/A-18 Super Hornets for the Navy;
* $1.8 billion for 16 C-130J transport planes for the Coast Guard;
* $460 million for jet engine development for the Air Force;
* More than $4 billion for additional ships for the Navy, including $776 million for a tanker ship and $590 million for an expeditionary fast transport ship;
* Over $2 billion for classified programs.
Many of the additions are drawn from priority lists routinely provided by branches of the military, although not all are, and some are produced in powerful lawmakers’ districts. Richard Shelby of Alabama, for example, is the top Republican appropriator in the Senate, and shipyards in his home state appear to be benefactors of the budgetary largesse — raising serious questions about the value of the additional appropriations.
“Whether the $58.55 billion in congressionally inserted spending is justified is largely in the eye of the beholder,” says Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly. “Few would argue with the need for spending some of it. Yet a substantial portion of the money goes for programs of arguable utility to the U.S. military, critics say.”
Total likely higher: The Pentagon was required to report additions to its budget request of items worth more than $20 million apiece. Since there were additions made that were worth less than that, the true total of added spending is almost certainly higher, Donnelly says.
Even so, the reported total is shocking enough. As Donnelly puts it, “The $58.55 billion total amounts to nearly 8 percent of the Defense Department’s fiscal 2022 base budget appropriation of $742.3 billion.”
More of the same in 2023: The House plans to vote on the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday, and lawmakers are still debating how much extra funding they want to give the Pentagon. Currently, the House version of the bill would provide an additional $37 billion for defense activities, with most of that going to the Defense Department. (Other departments receive defense funding, including Energy and State.)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) tried to have the additional funding removed, but her effort came to naught. The defense budget “is running amok," Lee said during debate.
Whatever amount is added, we’ll find out for sure next year. The 2023 NDAA is expected to include a requirement that the Pentagon again inform the public just how much extra funding it receives in the next fiscal year.
Quote of the Day
“A price cap on Russian oil is one of our most powerful tools to address the pain that Americans and families across the world are feeling at the gas pump and the grocery store right now. A limit on the price of Russian oil will deny Putin revenue his war machine needs.”
– Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking Thursday ahead of a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from major economies, suggesting that a proposed price cap would both help fight inflation, which she called “unacceptably high,” and keep Russia from funding its war in Ukraine. Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokeswoman Shu Jueting said the price cap would be complicated and instead urged further peace talks, CNBC reports.
How Covid Could Threaten Dems’ Budget Reconciliation Bill
With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) having tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis notes that publicly reported cases among Democratic lawmakers have overwhelmingly outnumbered those among Republicans.
According to data from GovTrack.us, of the 70 members of Congress who have publicly reported testing positive since the beginning of March , just 6 are Republicans, including Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, whose office said today he has Covid.
That’s not because Democrats are somehow more susceptible to Covid-19. “Lawmakers of both parties agree that Democrats appear to be victims of their own diligence, testing more frequently than Republicans and publicizing their results more routinely,” DeBonis reports. “One key factor in the testing disparity between the two parties: Although Congress itself has no set testing protocol, the White House does, and many lawmakers have reported positive tests after being screened for meetings with President Biden or [Vice President Kamala] Harris. By and large, those meetings tend to involve congressional Democrats, not Republicans.”
DeBonis adds that Democrats’ assiduousness could threaten their legislative plans, is some lawmakers are absent as the party looks to pass a budget reconciliation bill through the evenly divided Senate, which does not allow proxy voting. “The whole country is depending on us, so we need to stay healthy,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told the Post. “As we get closer to go-time, we should be increasingly careful.”
Chart of the Day: The Cost of Pregnancy and Childbirth
The health care costs of pregnancy and childbirth average almost $19,000, with some $2,850 of that paid out of pocket, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The cost of pregnancies resulting in a vaginal delivery averages nearly $15,000, while pregnancies resulting in C-sections average more than $26,000.
“These costs are more than many families can afford,” the Kaiser foundation’s Matthew Rae, Cynthia Cox and Hanna Dingel write. “Roughly one third of multi-person households and half of single-person households would not have the liquid assets needed to cover typical out-of-pocket costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth in private health plans.”
- Democrats Squabbling on Economic Plan as Deadline Closes In – Bloomberg
- Schumer Pushes Bill to Boost Domestic Chip Production Though Key Republican Casts Doubt on Deal – CNN
- Biden Calls Inflation Numbers ‘Out of Date.’ Americans Disagree – Bloomberg
- Yellen Warns Inflation in the U.S. Is ‘Unacceptably High’ – CNBC
- A Truly Massive Interest Rate Hike Is Now on the Table – CNN
- Low Demand for Young Kids’ Covid Vaccines Is Alarming Doctors – Politico
- No Easy Options as Pressure to Pass Chips Funding Bill Grows – Roll Call
- Reconciliation Talks So Far Quiet on Medicaid Expansion – Roll Call
- Reconciliation Talks Complicated by ‘SALT’ Tax Hurdle – Roll Call
- DeLauro Working to Get All Dozen Spending Bills Through House – Roll Call
- US Producer Prices Top Forecasts but Signs of Softening Emerge – Bloomberg
- House Passes Bill to Expand Health Benefits for Burn Pit Exposure – New York Times
- White House Debates Declaring Abortion Access a ‘Health Emergency’ – Washington Post
- As Faith Flags in U.S. Government, Many Voters Want to Upend the System – New York Times
- Why the Omicron Offshoot BA.5 Is a Big Deal – CNN
Views and Analysis
- Recession Risks Rise as Fed Faces Daunting Task – Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post
- What It Will Take for the Fed to Tame Inflation – Bill Dudley, Bloomberg
- Biden’s Inflation Nightmare Gets Scarier – Ben White, Politico
- Labor Market Will Help, Not Hinder, Fed’s Inflation Fight – Conor Sen, Bloomberg
- Harry Truman Bucked Inflation. Both Parties Can Learn From Him – Henry Olsen, Washington Post
- Where Are Legislators in the Fight Against Inflation? – Laura Marsh, Alex Pareene and Claudia Sahm, New Republic (podcast with transcript)
- Is the Economy Good or Bad? In a Word: Yes – Catherine Rampell, Washington Post
- Forget Pronouns. Democrats Need to Become the Party of Building Things – Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post
- More Covid Boosters Are Coming, But Who Will Take Them? – Lisa Jarvis, Bloomberg
- Why Building Abortion Clinics on Federal Land in Red States Is a Bad Idea – Janathan Capehart, Washington Post