- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2021

House Republicans urged Democrats on Tuesday to postpone consideration of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion expansion of America’s social safety net, arguing that Congress instead should address the nation’s mounting foreign and domestic woes.

Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Democratic leaders were putting the spending package above the interests of the country.

Mr. Westerman made the argument in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona.

“America is facing crises both at home and abroad, yet Congress is nowhere to be found,” Mr. Westerman wrote. ”It is past time for us to come back to D.C. and tackle the critical needs of our country.”

Citing the escalating situation in Afghanistan, looming natural disasters and the immigration crisis, Mr. Westerman urged immediate action.

“We cannot address these issues if we are bogged down in a morass of reckless spending,” he wrote.

The letter came one day after Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee released a bill laying out how they plan to spend a portion of the $3.5 trillion package. Despite Congress being in recess, Mr. Grijalva is planning to expedite consideration of the bill. As such, the committee has scheduled an initial vote for later this week.

Mr. Westerman, however, says that timeline is too soon, especially in light of the current crises.

“This week is not the time for the committee’s majority to be advancing partisan wish lists,” Mr. Westerman wrote. “Throughout American history, this body has risen to the occasion and seen our country through the most trying of times. With proper leadership, there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Americans at risk, both at home and abroad, deserve nothing less.”

Last week, the House voted along party lines to start drafting the $3.5 trillion package. The spending program, which will include anti-poverty, education and health care initiatives, is the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda.

Democrats are pitching the legislation as “human infrastructure” to sell to voters. They suggest the bill complements the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which focuses on roads, bridges and airport projects.

In reality, the bigger bill amounts to a wish list of liberal priorities such as proposals for climate change, amnesty for illegal immigrants, tuition-free community college and expanded health care. It would be funded by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Because the $3.5 trillion package is unlikely to garner Republican support, Democrats plan to pass it in the Senate via budget reconciliation.

The process allows some spending measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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