Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) says there are far too many failed federal programs that should have been killed long ago, and adopting her proposal to make sure that happens in the future should be a “no-brainer for Congress.”
The Iowa Republican told reporters during an Oct. 28 news conference that she’s naming Congress as the recipient of her latest Squeal Award “because we have a ‘zombie apocalypse’ here in Washington, D.C., as we have found that there are so many taxpayer dollars that have been buried in government programs that we’re not utilizing. So we want to bury these zombie programs for good.”
Ernst pointed to three examples of federal programs that were established for specific purposes, given substantial appropriations of tax dollars to carry out those purposes, and then simply lay dormant without returning the funds to the Treasury to be spent where needed.
“The U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund fulfilled its mission decades ago, over 20 years ago, and yet there is still $1.5 billion in that fund,” Ernst said. “Second, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, I had a bill on this earlier this year. It hasn’t supported a candidate in years, yet we have $400 million just sitting idle in that fund right now.”
Ernst’s third example of a zombie federal program is the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Multi-State Plan “that cost tens of millions of tax dollars to set up and administer, and yet we don’t provide any coverage to any state through that plan.”
The U.S. Enrichment Corp.’s original purpose was to clean up depleted uranium at two government facilities in the Department of Defense’s nuclear bomb production program. That effort was privatized in 1998 as depleted uranium was no longer needed for defense purposes, although the $1.5 billion was left in the Treasury Department account doing nothing, Ernst said.
President George W. Bush in 2004 was the last winning presidential candidate to accept tax dollars from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016 were the most recent unsuccessful candidates to accept the money.
The ACA’s Multi-State Program was established in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in 2014 and costs an estimated $10 million annually to administer. But OPM announced in 2019 that it could no longer “achieve the statutory goals and objectives of the program.”
Ernst posted on Twitter an animated video prepared by her staff to explain her proposal.
Ernst said she believes “there are many, many more zombie programs that are out there and they should have been killed off a long time ago. That is the goal. Our national debt, we are closing in on $30 trillion, so what we can do is stop these programs and instead of borrowing billions of dollars, we can use the dollars we have sitting idle in these programs.”
The bill introduced by Ernst—The Zombie Programs Survival Act—would require the president to report to Congress each year “a hit list of all the zombie programs we haven’t yet identified here that did not provide any financial assistance in the prior year, an explanation of the reason why it didn’t and then the amount of taxpayer dollars still sitting idle.”
Adopting her proposal is “a no-brainer,” Ernst said, chuckling along with reporters at the allusion to Halloween this weekend.
Ernst said she’s been working with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) on the U.S. Enrichment abolishment and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on closing down the Multi-State Program.