Lankford Asks for Receipts before Spending More Money
Lankford: “We're not trying to be obstructionists. We're just trying to get information.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today called on his colleagues to provide transparency on the upcoming $1.9 trillion Democrat COVID-19 bill, which the Senate is expected to begin debating in the coming days even though Members have not yet seen it.
Lankford asked the Senate the reasonable questions of whether senators could read the bill first and whether senators could get real numbers on what is unspent and what can be reallocated from the funding already provided. Lankford particularly highlighted the additional tens of billions of dollars for vaccines in the upcoming bill when President Biden announced this week that with currently available funding, every adult will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by May.
Last week, Lankford took to the Senate floor to call on the CDC to provide Oklahoma seniors, those with comorbidities, and others who’ve received the full COVID-19 vaccine regiment with up-to-date guidance on when and in what ways it is safe to move forward with their daily lives now that they are completely vaccinated. His remarks followed a letter he sent to the CDC director requesting the guidance earlier in February.
Senator Scott, Senator Ernst, and I are not trying to ask for something that the American people aren't already asking for as well. And quite frankly, the Senate and this White House haven't already said they want to be able to do. Basic transparency, efficient spending. It is Wednesday afternoon right now. We're about to take up a bill for—we think—$1.9 trillion. And I say we think because none of us have seen the text of this bill yet. Not one of us on either side of the aisle. And the debate was supposed to begin on it today, but none of us have seen the text for this. Supposedly we're supposed to start voting on it tomorrow night, though no one has seen the text of the bill yet. In addition to that, last year this congress on a bipartisan basis passed five COVID relief bills totaling over $4 trillion. Every dollar of that $4 trillion was borrowed. Every dollar. None of that was budgeted.
But there was bipartisan agreement as we walked through the process to determine this is an emergency, this is a global pandemic. To help stabilize our economy from going into free fall we have to do some very difficult things. But in the middle of all that we also said, ‘We don't need to borrow a dollar more than what we need to borrow. Let's borrow what we need to but not more than we need to.’ Interestingly enough, of the five bills and $4 trillion that was allocated for COVID last year, only $3 trillion of that $4 trillion has actually been spent yet. We still have over $1 trillion unspent of the money from last year. But before that last trillion—which imagine just how big that really is—to give you an example, every single agency in the federal government, the total budget for a year is $1 trillion. So this quote-unquote little $1 trillion that's left would cover the total budget for every agency in the federal budget for all of next year. This $1 trillion still unspent, the Biden Administration and my democratic colleagues are saying, ‘We want an additional $2 trillion.’
Basically, near the end of the pandemic they want a bill as large as what we had the very first month of the pandemic a year ago when we knew we were in economic free fall. All we're asking is a couple of things. One is can we read the bill. Number two, can we get real numbers of what is unspent, and anything that is unspent that we can reallocate for something in the future.
Let me give you an example. The best I can tell, we have about $6 billion still left in the vaccine line item left over from last year. $6 billion just for vaccine, and that's vaccine purchases. There's another $17 billion left over just for all the distribution process for vaccines. That's a lot of money. Just yesterday President Biden announced we will have all the vaccines available for every adult in America by the end of May. It's paid for, set aside, ready to go. Yet this bill—that I understand is coming tomorrow, maybe later today—has tens of billions of dollars more in vaccine money. Why is there tens of billions of dollars more in vaccine money when just yesterday the President announced we have all the purchases done all the way through towards the end of May to vaccinate every adult in America? And there's billions of dollars still left over in the two vaccine accounts even after that. Why are we asking? Where is that money going?
That shouldn't be an unreasonable question. That should be a question everybody should ask. Why are we asking for tens of billions of dollars more in vaccines when we've already purchased vaccines? Is this foreign aid vaccines? We don't know. There's $170 billion being requested for education expenses.
All of us want to take care of education. But $170 billion is twice as much as what the American people spend on education in a year. The total education budget is $67 billion for the entire year for all of the federal education budget. $67 billion. This is very close to three-times what the annual budget is for all of spending just for COVID. And, by the way, still unspent in the education amount from last year's budget, we understand is about $68 billion. So there's still $68 billion unallocated to education entities that haven't even been touched yet.
Listen, before everybody jumps up and says you Republicans are being a blockade, can we just ask our question: how much money is unspent and what is the money going towards that we're asking for? That shouldn't be an unreasonable question. That should be a reasonable question.
We're not trying to be obstructionists. We're just trying to get information. And quite frankly, when our team calls over to the White House and says can you give us the details of what's unspent in this amount, I know it's early in their presidency, and they're still getting organized, but most of the time their answer is, ‘We'll get back to you,’ and they never do.
We need to know what's still left over of this $1 trillion that's already been allocated before we allocate another $2 trillion, knowing every single dollar of that is borrowed from china or somewhere else. This is a real issue. We should resolve this before we move to spending another $2 trillion. And I thank very much Senator Scott for his leadership in this area in asking some very basic questions.
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