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‘We are watching’ – Ernst Warns Washington Bureaucrats About Their End-of-Year Spending Habits

WASHINGTON—During the biggest federal spending week of the Fiscal Year, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who Iowans sent to Washington to cut wasteful government spending and “Make ‘Em Squeal,” is calling out binge-buying bureaucrats for their notorious, annual “use-it or lose-it” spending spree. Today, on the Senate floor, Ernst warned federal agencies that their last minute purchases will not go unnoticed, and to be ready to justify them to hard-working taxpayers in Iowa, and across the country.

Click here or the image above to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.

Senator Ernst’s bill, the End-of-Year Fiscal Responsibility Act, would limit an agency’s spending in the last two months of the year to no more than the average it spent per month during the first ten months of the year. Last year alone, federal agencies spent $53 billion in taxpayer money during the final week of the fiscal year, on everything from lobster tail and crab to a foosball table.

Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:

“Mr. President, of course we all know, ‘tis the season in Washington. Government agencies are going on their annual ‘Christmas in September, use-it or lose-it’ shopping spree.

“If not spent by midnight on September 30th, leftover dollars expire and can no longer be used.

“Rather than returning the money to taxpayers, binge-buying bureaucrats are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars needlessly.

“Frankly folks, this is one of Washington’s most notorious traditions at the end of our fiscal year. 

“And let me tell you folks – Iowans, and hardworking folks across the country, really should be appalled by many of the last minute purchases our tax dollars are paying for…and I’ll just give you some examples. Right here:

  • “4.6 million dollars were spent on lobster tail and crab;
  • “2.1 million dollars spent on games, toys, and wheeled goods;
  • “Over 53,000 dollars on china and tableware;
  • “More than 40,000 dollars on clocks;
  • “And nearly 12,000 dollars for a commercial foosball table.

“Yes, that’s right folks. A commercial foosball table. 12,000 of your dollars.

“And what are we as Congress doing about this wasteful spending? Nada. Nothing.

“Congress is sitting idly by letting Washington bureaucrats waste the hard-earned dollars of folks in my home state of Iowa.

“Failing to pass the bills necessary to fund the government on time makes it difficult for agencies to thoughtfully plan and allocate billions of dollars.

“That’s why I’ve fought hard to make sure Congress completes its job of appropriating and budgeting on time.

“Through my No Budget, No Recess Act, members of Congress would be prohibited from leaving Washington if we fail to pass a budget by April 15 or if we fail to approve regular spending bills by August 1.

“The way we’re doing business is incentivizing federal agencies to rush and spend the rest of their money as quickly as possible. And it makes it all the more likely that they’ll waste money on unnecessary goods and services.

“As Iowa taxpayers know, it’s never smart to rush into a big purchase.

“Unfortunately, it seems Washington bureaucrats don’t agree, especially when it’s the tax dollars of hardworking Americans that they’re dealing with.

“Washington’s spending disorder gets more expensive every year.

“The 97 billion dollars rung up in September 2018 is 15 percent more than was spent the same month the previous year…and a staggering 39 percent more than that time in 2015.

“But, if federal agencies follow the president’s directive to trim their budgets by five percent, an easy place to start is simply by cutting the dollars they have been unable to spend.

“Federal agencies end every year with leftover money in their budgets.

“This year, it’s estimated the government will end up with more than 825 billion dollars in unspent funds that have not been committed by contract or otherwise obligated to be spent.

“So, last year’s 804 billion dollar budget deficit could have been wiped out and turned into a surplus if the unobligated balances being held in federal coffers had been canceled. 

“Instead, federal agencies ordered lobster tail and tons of, get this, tater tots…tons of tater tots…as Washington amassed its largest shortfall since 2012.

“Folks, we’ve got to put an end to this madness. Seriously.

“Someone has to be the Grinch on behalf of our taxpayers!

“That’s why earlier this year I introduced the End-of-Year Fiscal Responsibility Act.

“My bill would limit an agency’s spending in the last two months of the year to no more than the average of the previous ten months. 

“This bill won’t end all wasteful spending, but it will force agencies to put more thought into long-term planning and curtail the bad habit of out-of-control impulsive spending.

“Folks, Washington’s spending is out of control.

“With our national debt now surpassing 22 trillion dollars, Washington should be looking for ways to save by canceling or delaying unnecessary expenses, rather than splurging on year of the end wish lists.

“I would like to recognize the great work of the nonpartisan group, Open the Books, that is working to put every dime the government spends online in real time, to hold Washington accountable. The group issued a report on this very subject in March.

“I would also like to note that Iowans sent me to the Senate with a specific mission: cut wasteful spending and make Washington squeal.

“To prevent buyers’ remorse, I’m giving everyone in Washington fair warning: my office will be reviewing your last minute purchases and asking you to justify them to taxpayers.

“It’s time to put an end to this reckless behavior. Billion-dollar binge buying is no way to budget.”