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A Fake Rescue Package

March 1, 2021
Weekly Columns

In the early morning hours on Saturday of last week, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed through a massive spending bill under the guise of coronavirus relief. Unfortunately, the nearly $2 trillion fake rescue package more closely resembles a liberal wish list.

For background, the so-called relief legislation is the product of the budget reconciliation process, which allows for certain legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the usual 60. As you might remember, earlier in the month of February, Democrats in both chambers passed the same version of a shell budget written and passed only to trigger the use of reconciliation. Specifically, that action instructed 12 committees to write reconciliation legislation to increase spending by as much as $1.9 trillion. 

While 12 committees were given instructions to write portions of the bill related to their various policy jurisdictions, three failed to do so, ceding that authority to Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leadership. Within the nine committees that did conduct markups, Republicans were completely shut out of the process. In fact, out of the nearly 250 commonsense amendments offered by Republicans to make the legislation actually targeted to the pandemic, all but two were blocked in committees and one was stripped from the final package. Examples of the ideas refused included items like ensuring schools immediately get students back in the classroom for in-person learning, supporting efforts to reopen the economy and delivering more resources for vaccine development and distribution efforts.

Instead, Democrats focused more on unrelated items that just so happen to be at the top of their progressive wish list. This includes irresponsible policies like a federal bailout of certain pension funds, providing bloated contributions to Democrat-run state and local governments and arbitrarily raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. While the minimum wage provision will ultimately have to be taken out in the Senate, due to a parliamentary violation, enacting such a misguided policy would cost nearly one and a half million Americans to lose their jobs and hurt economies nationwide. Moreover, states and municipalities already have the power to raise the minimum wage within their jurisdiction as they see fit and some states have already done so.

Above all else, we need to get children out from behind screens and back to class before they fall further behind. Prior to the pandemic, children had access to in-person staff and services at schools. While many communities have followed the science and moved to reopen schools, that is not true everywhere. In fact, millions of students remain in virtual school and are becoming increasingly isolated and depressed. As a result, more students are losing ground academically, more students are contemplating suicide and more children are falling into despair. Considering that Congress has already provided unspent funding to help schools reopen, it is irresponsible that Democrats pushed for billions more in new funding with no requirement that schools must actually reopen. While I certainly support equipping our schools, our priority should be to get kids back in the classroom. 

To be clear, communities across our entire nation continue to suffer in some way because of the coronavirus pandemic, and I fully support targeted relief for the most urgent needs, such as continuing to help our small businesses stay afloat by extending and improving assistance like the highly successful and job-saving Paycheck Protection Program and providing funding for distribution of life-saving coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics. After Congress proved it could work together to deliver bipartisan coronavirus relief for the American people on five separate occasions last year, I regret that Democrats have chosen to completely abandon any good faith efforts to work with Republicans to do so again.