Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) broke ranks and voted against its approval.
Golden argued the $1.9 trillion package includes too many measures that aren’t necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During challenging times, the country needs its elected leaders to work together to meet the most urgent needs in their communities. This bill addresses urgent needs, and then buries them under a mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending. In reviewing the bill in its full scope, less than 20 percent of the total spending addresses core COVID challenges that are immediately pressing: funding for vaccine distribution and testing, and emergency federal unemployment programs. I support these portions of the bill wholeheartedly and believe we should do more for the people hardest hit by the pandemic by continuing to extend unemployment programs until economic indicators show they are no longer necessary,” he said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the path congressional leaders have chosen goes far beyond these key provisions, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. After supporting $4 trillion in emergency COVID relief in 2020, I won’t support trillions more in funding that is poorly targeted or in many cases not necessary at this moment in time.”
The bulk of the spending in the package would go to programs that Congress has already funded or are poorly designed and thus a waste of resources, the representative said. Among them are more funding for rental assistance, even though Congress allocated $25 billion to such assistance in December 2020, and $40 billion to child care assistance, after allocating $10 billion to the matter late last year.
Schrader hasn’t released a statement on the vote and did not make remarks on the House floor before the vote. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both Golden and Schrader, who are considered moderates, voted for the last package, which Congress passed just before Christmas. They also approved the massive $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020.
Republicans largely echoed Golden’s concern, noting previous packages have been passed on a bipartisan basis but Democrats have turned to using a budget process to cut out the GOP instead of negotiating this time around.
“This bill shouldn’t been negotiated in a bipartisan manner, but hundreds of Republican amendments were shut down at every turn. Federal aid needs to be targeted to those in need and spent immediately. That’s not what this bill does,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said in a statement.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told colleagues on the Senate floor that less than 5 percent of the money allocated for schools in the package would be spent this year, while less than 9 percent of the total funds go towards COVID-19 vaccine administration and distribution.
“We are here today because Washington Democrats have gotten together and decided to use a global pandemic as an excuse to check a few items off their progressive wish list,” he said, referring to provisions like a federal minimum wage hike.
Democrats who voted for the package’s passage, on the other hand, said unemployed Americans and others struggling amid the pandemic would be helped by the measures in the bill.
“This is a situation that calls for bold action. Now is not the time for small actions or another ‘pause.’ The American Rescue Plan meets this moment. It will expand vaccines and testing. It will keep families in their homes and ensure they can put food on their table. It will help schools reopen safely, because in-person learning is essential. It will help small businesses keep their doors open,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader, in a statement.
“This bill contains critical support for our communities, including a provision that I fought for, an expansion of the Child Tax Credit,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) said on the floor.