April 06, 2022

Smith Opening Statement: President Biden's HHS FY23 Budget

As prepared for delivery. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome, Secretary Becerra.

As the head of HHS, you oversee one of the largest budgets in the entire federal government – annually well over $1 trillion. For 2023, President Biden’s Budget has proposed giving you a 12% raise to $1.7 trillion. Over the past 2 years, Congress has also given your department trillions more to fight COVID. Such levels of funding demand a thorough examination of how, when, and where you have chosen to deploy these resources.

When the Biden Administration came into power, it inherited two authorized and incredibly effective vaccines, therapeutics, testing, and a national distribution network. Yet, somehow, the government seemed to have its worst response yet to the pandemic in 2021.

In his first month in office, President Biden shut down Operation Warp Speed – the Trump Administration program that had set you all up for success.

In March 2021, Democrats passed their $2 trillion American Rescue Plan, claiming it was urgently needed for “COVID relief.” But less than nine percent of those funds went to fighting the virus. Dozens of examples and billions of dollars’ worth of waste as a result of this law have been documented: taxpayer dollars going to build parking lots, golf courses, luxury apartments, and sports stadiums, among others.

Your department diverted $1 billion from a NIH study for “long-COVID” to house illegal immigrants at the border. You then backfilled NIH’s funding with money meant for COVID vaccines and testing. Last summer, you rerouted even more money – $2 billion to be exact – this time from the American Rescue Plan, to house illegal immigrants. In short, our own government is using taxpayer dollars to prioritize illegal immigrants over its citizens.

Over Christmas we saw a massive testing shortage. Thousands of people stuck freezing, in long lines, waiting for tests. It was later revealed during a Senate hearing by officials in your own department that the Biden Administration failed to place new testing orders for the first nine months of 2021.

Such failures were not the result of a lack of funding – the American people have given generously and have sacrificed a great deal. These failures point to a lack of leadership and decision-making at the highest levels of the Biden Administration. Remarkably, the Biden Administration got $2 trillion and ended up less prepared to battle COVID.

The funding request in the President’s budget comes out to a 12% raise for HHS – that’s not including the tens of billions in extra “emergency” COVID money the White House is asking for but fails to account for. That same budget cuts border security too. Clearly the Administration has learned nothing over the past year.

The sad truth is that the President’s budget fails to address the crises his Administration has created. In fact, it only makes them worse.

Since President Biden took office, there have been more than 2.9 million border encounters, a 426% increase over the previous year. Over 12 thousand pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill every man, woman, and child in America, have been seized by border patrol. In response, just last week, your department revoked Title 42 – knowing full well it will lead to more illegal immigration.

The mission of your department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans. And yet, this budget that you’re advocating eliminates protections for the unborn. It rejects the long-standing, bipartisan prohibition against federal tax dollars going towards abortions.

With credible concerns about COVID-19 originating from labs in Wuhan, China, this budget does not prohibit funding for viral research in China. Nor does it increase oversight on taxpayer-funded research.

Reports indicate you allowed teachers unions to edit CDC guidance that ultimately harmed millions of children by keeping schools closed. There is nothing in this budget that acknowledges or seeks to rectify those mistakes.

Everywhere you look in this budget, enshrined are the failed policies that brought us to where we are today. I hope, Secretary Becerra, you are ready for some questions because the American people want answers.

Thank you, I yield back.