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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Commentary: Hey, Congress: No last-minute shopping at taxpayer expense

By E.J. Antoni The Heritage Foundation

It’s happened to all of us: The holidays are here before you know it, and you’re scrambling for that last-minute gift. Maybe you procrastinated, but at least you are spending your own money on someone else. Conversely, the politicians in Congress are preparing to spend your money on themselves and their special interests in a perverse, year-end shopping spree.

What’s on their Christmas wish list? A plethora of radical, left-wing boondoggles that the American people clearly did not endorse in this year’s midterm elections. The Pelosi-Schumer-Biden omnibus may include everything from granting citizenship to large groups of immigrants living in the country illegally, bailouts for failed “green” energy programs, even more money sent to Ukraine without enough accountability, and further COVID-related funding despite President Joe Biden declaring the pandemic to be over.

All these additional outlays, on top of what the federal government already spends, come with a massive price tag measured in the trillions. While the details of such a proposal are still being hammered out behind closed doors and out of the public view, left-leaning lawmakers have made it clear that they want to ram a massive omnibus through Congress in this lame-duck session.

Why the urgency to spend so much money that the taxpayer does not have? It’s because Democrats have lost the House of Representatives. The new Congress, which will take office in January, will likely be much less amenable to granting this expensive wish list.

This is occurring at the same time the U.S. Treasury is hitting its debt ceiling, which functions like a limit on a credit card. Put simply, the Treasury has borrowed to its limit and cannot issue more debt without congressional approval – authorization that should not be granted under any circumstances.

With the Treasury – and therefore the taxpayer – hopelessly $31.5 trillion in debt, there is no room for more borrowing and spending, especially by a Congress whose priorities are clearly not aligned with the American people’s. Liberals may crow about their love of democracy, but it is hard to imagine something less democratic than a lame-duck Congress thwarting the will of the American people by hastily assembling and passing another bloated omnibus, and thereby robbing the people’s duly elected representatives of the chance to pass meaningful spending reform beginning in January.

Instead, there should be three priorities in the halls of Congress. First, the debt ceiling should not be raised. The solution to a maxed-out credit card is not a higher credit limit, but balancing the household budget. Second, this Congress has no mandate for further spending; there is also no need for any new spending in the remainder of this year. Until the new representatives are seated in January, Congress should not authorize any new federal expenditures.

Lastly, when the new Congress convenes, it must drastically cut federal spending, repeal onerous regulations across industries and stop discouraging domestic producers of reliable American energy.

The gargantuan federal deficits over the last two years have caused inflation to explode and the menace of rising prices will continue its rampage across the American economic landscape until the reckless government spending is brought under control. At the same time, excessive regulation has throttled the supply side of the economy, reducing production, which is the real driver of wealth creation and economic growth.

Possibly the clearest example of this is in the energy market, where domestic producers are laboring with the Biden administration’s boot pressed against their neck. Less energy has meant higher prices everywhere and for everything. The agenda outlined above, in addition to being the will of the American people, will have a dramatic and positive impact on fighting inflation.

The lame-duck Congress has no right to go on a last-minute shopping spree for themselves and their special interests this holiday season. Taxpayers already have an unsustainable burden of government debt on their shoulders. The last thing they need is another expensive wish list from liberal politicians to dampen the holiday spirit.

E.J. Antoni is a research fellow for regional economics in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis and a senior fellow at Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

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