Sen. Ernst Demands Agencies Stop End-of-Year Spending Sprees

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.
January 26, 2021Updated: January 27, 2021

Federal agencies again went on wasteful “use-it-or-lose-it” spending sprees in 2020 but still ended the year with more than $800 billion in unspent funds, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said on Jan. 26.

She expects a repeat of that performance come September.

“The federal government ends every fiscal year with a mountain of unspent money. The total for last year added up to more than $800 billion! And 2021 is expected to be nearly the same, with all of that taxpayer cash sitting idle and for no purpose,” Ernst said in a statement naming the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the latest recipient of her monthly Squeal Award.

She selected OMB because it refuses to make public the annual spending requests and justifications that the White House agency receives from federal agencies. Ernst believes making those justifications public would be an incentive against wasteful end-of-year spending by agency officials who fear their budgets will be cut by Congress if they don’t spend it all.

“Meanwhile, these same federal agencies that cannot find ways to spend all the money they’ve been given will once again come to Congress, hat in hand, asking for budget increases. The fiscal insanity cycle continues.

“If these agencies already know they’re not going to spend all the money they’re given, why the heck are they asking for more?” she asked.

“Agencies submit budget justifications to Congress as part the President’s annual budget request, and while the documents don’t answer all of these questions, they do give greater insights into how bureaucrats are managing your money,” Ernst said in her statement.

“But in typical Washington practice, these budget justifications are only available to a select few, and not YOU the taxpayer … who actually pays the bills.”

Ernst cited three examples of wasteful use-it-or-lose-it spending, asking why the agencies made the following expenditures of tax dollars:

The chimpanzee study was funded by three separate National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. Researchers involved in the study said fewer than half of the tested chimpanzees passed the mirror tests under a more stringent requirement for acceptable indicators of self-recognition.

A senior congressional aide who requested anonymity told The Epoch Times that researchers have been conducting such tests for at least five decades. The aide pointed to a January 1970 edition of Science Magazine that described one such study.

Ernst’s efforts were lauded on Jan. 26 by Mackie Burr, director of digital and grassroots development for the White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit educational foundation that opposes animal testing.

“Taxpayers have a right to know how much money the NIH and other agencies waste on boondoggles like forcing kittens to eat cat meat purchased from China’s wet markets, getting animals drunk and high in labs overseas, and watching monkeys check themselves out in the mirror,” Burr told The Epoch Times.

“Thankfully, Senator Joni Ernst’s Squeal Award series provides a roadmap of reckless government spending that helps taxpayers and Congress hold Uncle Sam accountable for wasting our hard-earned money,” Burr said.

Ernst is a co-sponsor of legislation that would require OMB to make public the budget requests and justifications by federal agencies. That legislation was introduced last year by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and is expected to be re-introduced in the 117th Congress.

She also succeeded in gaining passage of two measures designed to increase transparency and accountability in government by providing taxpayers more information on official activities.

Ernst was a co-sponsor of the Taxpayer Right to Know Act that became law last month and requires the federal government to maintain and publish a continuously updated list of all federal programs and assessments of how they are working or failing to meet their official objectives. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) was the primary sponsor of the measure.

Major provisions of Ernst’s Cost Openness and Spending Transparency Act (COST) were included in the 2021 defense appropriation bill, with a result that the Department of Defense must disclose to taxpayers the cost of all research and development projects.

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