House Republicans voiced their opposition Friday to what they called a partisan progressive wish list of provisions in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. GOP House members said the unspent CARES Act funds should first be distributed, then a new targeted package should be authorized.
During Friday’s House Rules Committee markup for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Ranking Member of the Small Business Committee Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) criticized the massive package, saying he is opposed to the current $1.9 trillion price tag and what it will fund.
“We now find ourselves here today, considering yet another massive COVID assistance package of additional spending, even though recent data shows that as much as $1 trillion in the previous coronavirus relief funding remains unspent. Shouldn’t we first have an accurate accounting for what has and hasn’t been spent?” said Luetkemeyer.
“In fact, many of the small business programs in December’s COVID relief bill have not even been activated by the agencies. We should get the reforms and improvements in these programs implemented first instead of irresponsibly spending more money on programs that we don’t even know will work,” said Luetkemeyer.
The 116th Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was signed by former President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020, and authorized funds to fight the pandemic and its economic effects. It included cash relief for individual citizens, loan programs for small businesses, support for hospitals and other medical providers, and various types of economic relief for industries.
Luetkemeyer added: “I also have concerns about the bill’s current expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program [PPP] beyond the original congressional intent by removing the [Small Business Administration’s] important affiliation rules for nonprofits that prevent Planned Parenthood and their affiliates from receiving federal small business assistance. Our focus should be on ensuring that only true small businesses qualify for PPP loans.”
Under the current $1.9 trillion relief package, Planned Parenthood would receive millions of dollars, a measure Republicans oppose.
Meanwhile, Rep. Suzan Delbene (D-Wash.), vice-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, countered Republicans’ claim that the package is a partisan wish list for her party, calling it instead “lifesaving.”
“This landmark and lifesaving legislation is not a partisan wish list. It’s an American wish list. An overwhelming majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, support our work and to delay any longer puts lives at risk. Our blueprint as laid out by President Biden was simple: Build on the programs that have already been helping to keep Americans afloat since they were first included in the bipartisan CARES Act,” said Delbene.
She emphasized the health care provision in the package, which would allow low-income families to access Obamacare.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a Feb. 12 letter to Democrats said the goal of the $1.9 trillion package is to crush the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
“The goals of this coronavirus relief package are to crush the virus, return children safely to the classroom, get vaccines to the people, put dollars into families’ pockets, and put people back to work.”
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) blasted the lockdowns by Democrat governors which he said had ruined over 100,000 small businesses and benefited large corporations like Amazon and Walmart.
“This bill only rewards those liberal governors that destroyed these small businesses. It’s about time we wake up as citizen legislators and defend the American working class, not the global elites,” said Smith.
Chairman of the Rules Committee Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) criticized Smith for what he called divisive language and for finger-pointing at Democrat governors, insinuating that Smith follows QAnon theories, and countering the Republican claim that the current package is fiscally reckless.
“I have to say that, whether you agree with this package or you don’t, the time has come for us to understand that this is a national problem, and the constant polarization, the constant pitting of red states against blue states, people have had it,” he said.