Op-EdAppeared in Real Clear Policy on February 16, 2024By Alfredo Ortiz and Lee Rizzuto

Stop Foreign Aid Starting With Senate Package

The Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan this week. Speaker Johnson and House Republicans should announce the bill dead on arrival. “This bill gives the finger to all of America,” said Sen. Rand Paul before the Senate vote. “This bill is Ukraine first, America last.”

The bill coincides with a new Congressional Budget Office report showing the U.S. fiscal house is on fire. The CBO reveals that interest on the $34 trillion national debt is now so great that it’s the primary driver of annual deficits going forward. Interest payments will exceed the entire defense budget this year and reach $1 trillion next year.

This fiscal crisis is solely due to reckless government spending such as foreign military adventurism. Government expenditures grew from $4 trillion in 2017 to $6.1 trillion in 2023, an increase of more than 50%. The deficit was an outrageous $1.7 trillion in 2023 and is on track for $2 trillion this year.

The country simply can’t afford to send nearly $100 billion abroad, especially when it’s not offset by spending cuts. It would only exacerbate the deficit crisis.

To put these proposed foreign aid funds in perspective, $95 billion is almost as much as the nation spends annually on food stamps. There are a lot of problems with the food stamp program, but I think we can all agree that food for Americans who can’t afford it is a better use of taxpayer funds than foreign aid.

President Trump called this week to turn all foreign aid into loans, a position we have advocated for in the past. “From this point forward, are you listening U.S. Senate(?), no money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” wrote Trump on Truth Social.

This move would protect taxpayers and prevent further fiscal damage. Admittedly, converting aid to loans amounts to only a drop in the debt bucket. But it would symbolize that legislators are serious about tackling our debt problems and finished with spending that doesn’t directly help Americans.

The Senate foreign aid package provides $60 billion for Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. taxpayers have given to the nation since the beginning of its war with Russia to around $150 billion. Yet this massive funding serves no clear purpose as everyone knows the war is bogged down in a stalemate.

Why are we spending tens of billions of dollars on Ukraine’s border, which has been disputed for centuries, while ignoring control of our own? The House should not consider support of the Senate bill even with the aid converted to loans unless the HR2 border security bill is attached to it.

The bill gives $14 billion to Israel to aid its war in Gaza and $9 billion to Gaza to help it rebuild. It gives $5 billion to Taiwan, the same amount as the annual municipal budget of Dallas.

Sen. Mitt Romney said the foreign aid bill is the “most important vote we will ever take as United States Senators.” Really? I don’t think many ordinary Americans struggling with a cost of living crisis caused by such inflationary spending would agree with that statement.

This foreign aid blowout is a microcosm of the bipartisan spending addiction that created this looming fiscal crisis in the first place. Lawmakers should cut spending now when they’re capable of doing so before fiscal reality forces far broader cuts in the future. Foreign aid is a good place to start, particularly striking down this Senate bill.