A top House Republican is calling on the Biden administration to provide a full account of how it's spending $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief money, warning of "potential misuse and abuse" of the taxpayer funds.
In a Wednesday letter addressed to Gene Sperling – who is overseeing the implementation of the so-called American Rescue Plan – Rep. Jason Smith, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, demanded "the fullest transparency and accountability" regarding the distribution of funding.
Smith, R-Mo., requested that Sperling submit a formal response on eight different fronts: the status of unspent money from earlier stimulus bills, individual direct payments – including whether all incarcerated Americans will receive a cash payment – small business assistance, actions the administration is taking to protect taxpayer money, the reopening schools, the provider relief fund, COVID-19 testing money and the administration's commitment to accountability and transparency.
"The American people deserve answers on where this money is going and why, and what, if any, actions the Biden Administration is taking to defend the interests of American taxpayers as they so clearly champion the interests of their political allies," Smith said in a statement to FOX Business.
Examples of "potential waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars" have already emerged, Smith said, pointing to the creation of a $40 million fund in New Jersey that will provide relief to undocumented immigrants and other workers excluded from aid during the pandemic. (That money actually stems from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed when former President Donald Trump was in office; however, New Jersey is reportedly exploring using $6 billion from the American Rescue Plan for a second round).
Smith also pointed to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, vetoing a GOP-sponsored bill that would have given the state's legislature's budget committee the authority to oversee the use of funding from the American Rescue Plan.
"The Biden Administration should waste no time in providing Congress with a fully transparent accounting of how it is spending Americans’ tax dollars," he said.
The stimulus measure, which Democrats passed in March without a single GOP vote, included a $1,400 check for many Americans and an extension of a $300 weekly unemployment aid supplement through Sept. 6, as well as a generous one-year expansion of the child tax credit. It also provided $350 billion in funding for state and local governments, vaccine distribution efforts and small businesses still reeling from the pandemic.
Republicans have repeatedly blasted the bill as a wasteful spending frenzy that does more to address liberal wish list items than the dual health and economic crises.
The sheer size of pandemic-related spending in the U.S. is entirely without precedent: Lawmakers already approved about $4.1 trillion in relief measures under former President Trump, according to a COVID-19 money tracker published by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, bringing total federal spending on the crisis to roughly $6 trillion.
The exorbitant level of spending has pushed the nation's deficit to a record $3.1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year (which does not include the $900 billion relief plan approved in December). The national debt is on track to hit $30 trillion by the end of 2021.