By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is opposed to the $1.7 trillion spending package being considered in Congress.
“It is irresponsible of us to continue spending at this level,” she told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon. “It is time to seriously pursue spending cuts and budget reform processes to protect the financial well-being of our nation and the people across Wyoming.”
The sprawling spending package would keep the government open through next fall and avoid a federal shutdown if it can be passed by Friday. Lawmakers OK’d a one-week stopgap funding bill last week to give themselves more time to discuss the spending package.
What’s In It
The 4,155-page legislation introduced late Monday night would increase federal spending from the last fiscal year.
It provides $858 billion in military spending, a nearly 10%, or $76 billion, increase; and more than $772 billion for domestic programs, a $68 billion increase, through the current fiscal year that ends in September. The bill also includes another round of $45 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine.
Need To Cut Spending
Based on her Sustainable Budget Act, Lummis is introducing an amendment to the bill that would create a commission tasked with evaluating how to fix the nation’s budget processes and cut spending.
Originally introduced in spring 2021, the SBA would establish an 18-person, bipartisan commission to restore sustainability to the federal budget. The president would appoint six commissioners, three from each major political party. The speaker of the House, the House minority leader and the Senate majority and minority leaders would each appoint three members from their respective caucuses or conferences.
“I urge my colleagues to consider this amendment and change course on our spending habits,” Lummis said.
A spokesperson for Sen. John Barrasso did not provide Cowboy State Daily a comment, but referenced a letter he signed with Lummis and 12 other senators this fall demanding no spending increases.
“We must not accept anything short of a ‘clean’ Continuing Resolution that contains no additional spending or extraneous policy riders,” the letter says.
Stuffed into the spending package are a number of other unrelated bipartisan measures, including a ban on the use of TikTok on government devices and an overhaul of the electoral vote counting law, an issue U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, has been pushing for with her own legislation.
Cheney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the spending package.
The package also includes earmarks allowing lawmakers to divert money to their specific districts and states.
Despite the rash of spending increases, Democrats still had to make a number of compromises to get Republican leadership to sign onto the bill, stepping back on proposals to keep funding levels equal for the health, education and other domestic programs President Joe Biden has prioritized.
Specifically left out was Biden’s request for an additional $10 billion in emergency aid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.
Dems Back Down
“Republicans were not going to let our Democratic colleagues demand extra left-wing goodies in exchange for doing their jobs and funding our troops,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor Monday. “The president’s own party does not get to take our national defense hostage and demand rewards.
“I am grateful that our Democratic colleagues backed down and accepted our position.”
Democrats did win when in bringing more funding to Medicaid programs in U.S. territories. The legislation also allows states to permanently extend Medicaid coverage for new moms for 12 months. There is a bill being considered in this year’s Wyoming Legislature to enact this.
Last Chance For Dems
The federal legislation will be the last chance for Democrats to shape the federal budget while their party controls both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
The Senate is expected to vote on the spending bill first, where at least 10 Republican senators will need to support it for it to pass and be considered by the House.
With a vote of 70-25, the Senate approved beginning debate on the spending measure, with 21 Republicans voting in favor of doing so.