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GOP lawmakers say they need to kill relief bill because it helps too much

Republicans say they want to eliminate ‘liberal goodies’ in Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill.

By Donna Provencher - February 22, 2021
Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana

The Republican Study Committee issued a three-page memo this week detailing all the items it plans to fight in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan — all items aimed at assisting Americans struggling during the pandemic.

The RSC, the largest conservative caucus in the House, provides resources and research to assist Congress in drafting policy. According to the committee, the memo aims to expose “all the left-wing items Democrats are hoping the public won’t find about” and slams alleged “liberal goodies” contained in the bill.

“The RSC is leading conservatives inside and outside the Beltway in opposition to this so-called ‘relief package,'” remarked RSC Chair Jim Banks (R-IN). “The more we learn about it, the worse it sounds. That’s why we’ve put together a fact sheet to educate Americans exactly how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by Democrats.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) took to Fox News Sunday to blast the bill, claiming some of its contents “have nothing to do with COVID.” Earlier in the week, he referred to the bill as “[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act.”

“Less than 10% of the money in this massive $1.9 trillion bill is for health-related items,” Scalise said on Fox. “I thought this was supposed to be about recovering from COVID.”

He then criticized the bill for allocating $350 billon dollars to “bail out failed states.”

However, state and local funding goes specifically toward expenditures for COVID-19 recovery, as states grapple with demonstrated budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.

Federal funding is allocated for budget items like health care costs, statewide COVID testing and contact tracing, mental health providers, small business relief, health departments, hospital staffing and overtime expenses, nursing home programs, virtual learning programs, and nonprofits providing essential pandemic-related services.

Scalise also objected to the bill’s inclusion of legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, asking, “What does that have to do with COVID relief?”

But a Congressional Budget Office analysis has found that a minimum wage increase will reduce economic inequality and have a “significant and direct” impact on economic recovery. The analysis found such an increase would help 27 million workers and ultimately result in a $333 billion increase for low-wage workers — a group disproportionately affected by the pandemic — across a 10-year period.

The Fox News segment also criticized the bill for allocating $270 million for the arts and humanities and $200 million for museums and libraries — but workers in the arts and culture sector have been among those hardest hit by the pandemic , with a $15.2 billion economic impact on the industry to date.

The $1.9 trillion bill also includes a number of other budget items aimed at providing relief for people struggling during the economic recession. Republicans have vowed to block them.

The committee’s memo voices objections to $1,400 stimulus checks going to so-called mixed-status families, who were omitted from previous relief bills. But 16.2 million Americans — including more than 6 million U.S. citizen children — live in mixed-status families, where one or more members of the household are undocumented immigrants. Previous COVID relief payments have been denied to American citizens with American citizen children if an undocumented spouse or relative resides in the home.

Other items Republicans have decried as “liberal goodies” in the bill include Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program, $600 million allotted to emergency paid leave for U.S. Postal Service workers and federal employees, $50 million for environmental justice groups.

It would also allow prison inmates to keep their Medicaid coverage for 30 days following their release.

Thirty-eight Planned Parenthood affiliates received $80 million in PPP loans in 2020. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services for more than 2.4 million people a year and is the nation’s largest provider of sex education. It has suffered severe economic hits during the pandemic.

Postal Service unions say their employees are among those deemed essential who have struggled during the pandemic.

And environmental advocates say that efforts to combat climate change must be considered intertwined with efforts to combat the coronavirus, with both having profound impacts on public health.

Studies have found that Medicaid expansion protects inmates — a group disproportionately vulnerable to and impacted by COVID-19 — and thereby also reduces the spread of the coronavirus to the wider community.

If they manage to block the bill, Republicans would also be blocking expanded unemployment payments for the 11.4 million workers who will otherwise lose their benefits in March and April.

“We are in a race against time, and aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction,” said House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Biden was more blunt in his defense of the $1.9 billion bill.

“What would they have me cut?” he asked of Republicans on Friday.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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