Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in a Senate floor speech Monday tore into fellow Republicans as they prepared vote on the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that was later passed by Congress following months of negotiations.
Addressing the Senate on Monday afternoon, Paul said that fellow Republicans who back the COVID-19 relief package while pointing out “the socialism of Democrats,” are no better than those they criticize.
“To so-called conservatives who are quick to identify the socialism of Democrats: If you vote for this spending monstrosity, you are no better,” Paul said.
The measure (pdf) passed the House along a 359-53 vote, and passed the Senate along a 91-7 vote. It now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed. If the bill is signed, a government shutdown would be averted, because federal funding will expire at midnight.
“The next time you see Republicans in high moral dudgeon and complaining about spending of Democrats and socialism, remind them if they supported this monstrous bill then really the difference between the parties is less Adam Smith vs. Marx and more Marx vs. Engels,” Paul said.
The senator criticized the high spending of his fellow Republican legislators, calling for lockdowns to be put to an end, and warning of the growing national debt.
“If free money were the answer, if money really grew on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000?” Paul told the floor.
“Maybe these new free-money Republicans should join the everybody-gets-a-guaranteed-income caucus? Why not $20,000 a year for everybody, why not $30,000? If we can print out money with impunity, why not do it?” he added.
“When you vote to pass out free money, you lose your soul and you abandon forever any semblance of moral or fiscal integrity.”
The COVID-19 relief package includes a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans making up to $75,000 per year, and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. An additional $600 payment is allotted per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key White House negotiator, said on CNBC Monday morning that the direct payments would begin arriving in bank accounts next week if the bill is passed.
The legislation would also provide enhanced unemployment insurance benefits of $300 per week. This is about half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March. The direct $600 stimulus payment was also half the March payment.
The sweeping bill includes $284 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program to cover a second round of small business loans and grants to especially hard-hit businesses. It would exclude publicly-traded companies from eligibility.
The bill also carves out $25 billion for rental assistance, and extends a ban on evictions that was due to expire by the end of January 2021.
Other subsidies in the bill include about $82 billion for schools, colleges, and universities, $10 billion for child care, and $15 billion for theaters and other live venues.
State and local governments, which are struggling to pay for the distribution of newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, would receive $8.75 billion, with $300 million of that targeted at vaccinations in minority and high-risk populations.
“We are $27 trillion in debt today. How do we expect a child to have the economic opportunity when this crushing debt is their inheritance from Congress?” Paul asked. “We are borrowing and worsening this debt crisis, in part because too many governors and mayors have imposed heavy handed restrictions that crush business.”
“The need for help is real. I hear it every day from Kentuckians and across the country. But it’s clear that government has worsened the economic damage and acted as the biggest obstacle to economic recovery,” Paul added. “The answer is not printing up and distributing ‘free money.’ It’s opening the economy.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.