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The 8 most absurd reasons Republicans don't want to pass COVID relief this time

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan is overwhelmingly popular, even among GOP voters.

By Josh Israel - March 03, 2021
Mitch McConnell

Senate Republicans are preparing to oppose the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan when the Democratic majority brings it up for consideration on Wednesday. Rather than back the wildly popular pandemic relief legislation, they are inventing an array of excuses to oppose it.

The bill, proposed by President Joe Biden to fund measures to curb the pandemic and help Americans struggling economically from its devastation, passed the House early on Saturday without a single Republican vote after GOP leaders pushed their members to oppose it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters last week that she does not expect a single GOP senator to back it either.

Here are eight of the worst arguments Senate Republicans are using to try to block the emergency bill:

1. The provisions helping parents with kids might be confusing.

One part of the relief bill would expand the child income tax credit by $1,000 or more — a move that experts estimate could help nearly 10 million children currently living under the poverty line.

But USA Today reported on Wednesday that Republicans oppose the plan and think the system might be too complicated for the IRS to implement. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said providing the credit would prove to be an “administrative nightmare.” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida simply dismissed it as “welfare.”

2. It is unfair to states that did little to curb the pandemic.

Under Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa had one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 responses. She was one of just seven governors who refused to issue any stay-at-home orders as the pandemic began. In May, she was one of five Republican governors who bragged in a joint Washington Post op-ed, “Our states stayed open in the covid-19 pandemic. Here’s why our approach worked.” It did not work, and by September, Iowa led the country with the most average daily new coronavirus cases.

On Tuesday, Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst complained that the $350 billion in state and local aid in the legislation “rewards those with the strictest lockdowns,” as it is weighted to allocate more funds to states with higher unemployment.

3. Red state taxpayers will have to subsidize blue states.

Ernst also picked up on an argument popular among her GOP colleagues, deriding the legislation as a “blue state bailout” — even though Republicans’ own states and local governments stand to receive tens of billions of dollars in federal help.

“Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for other states’ bad behavior and mismanagement,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

In reality, the bill would not impose any new taxes on Iowans. And according to a 2020 analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Iowa receives significantly more in federal funds than it sends to Washington, D.C.

4. Only some of the money goes directly to fighting the coronavirus.

Repeating an already debunked House GOP talking point, some Senate Republicans have claimed that less than a tenth of the $1.9 trillion goes to curbing the pandemic. “The Democrat’s [sic] COVID relief package reads more like a progressive wish list,” tweeted Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. “Only 9% of the $1.9 TRILLION package goes toward actual COVID relief.”

This ignores the $350 billion in aid to states, localities, and territories, aimed at ensuring “that they are in a position to keep front line public workers on the job and paid, while also effectively distributing the vaccine, scaling testing, reopening schools, and maintaining other vital services.”

5. Schools won’t spend most of the money in the next few months.

Because it takes time for schools to sign contracts and spend money, most of the funds in the bill to help schools reopen will not be spent in fiscal year 2021. Republican lawmakers, who have demanded an immediate reopening of schools for in-person learning, have suggested that this will not do much to help reopen schools this school year, which ends in three months.

“Just 5% of what they propose to spend on schools would even be spent this fiscal year,” complained Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.

“We should not use this COVID crisis as a liberal wish list of items here wherein 95 percent of it gets spent in the out-years,” argued Sen. Steve Daines of Montana on Feb. 24. “How does this help our students and our schools now? The answer is, it doesn’t.”

“Schools already have the money they need to reopen,” tweeted Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn. “The money in this bill won’t be spent for years. Teachers unions are all about power and their paycheck. Not about the pupils they teach. This should be easy. For the sake of the children, re open the schools.”

6. Some of it may help improve infrastructure.

Some of the funding in the bill will pay for infrastructure programs — historically a bipartisan goal and vital to helping Americans get back to work.

But Ernst on Tuesday said on the Senate floor that this was unrelated to COVID, mocking it as a “budget busting bill” full of “pricey partisan pet projects.”

7. There is no money left.

During their time in the majority, Senate Republicans massively expanded the national debt and budget deficit. Much of this increase came from the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which cut taxes significantly for billionaires and large corporations and significantly reduced the federal government’s revenue.

But now many of the same lawmakers who backed those cuts are saying there is no money left for this relief bill.

“The spending spree proposed by Democrats isn’t about COVID relief & will drive U.S. debt to almost $30T,” Sen. Rick Scott of Florida tweeted on Feb. 25. “The U.S. debt crisis hurts low income families the most & can’t be ignored. I urge my Democrat colleagues to leave political agendas behind & focus on helping those in need.”

8. It’s not bipartisan.

After unanimously opposing the relief bill, Senate Republicans suggested that their opposition means it is not “bipartisan” enough.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats had worked together on COVID-19 relief bills when the GOP controlled the Senate. “Let’s work together like we’ve done on the last five COVID bills,” he tweeted.

But Senate Republicans refused to even consider the $3 trillion relief bill passed by the House last May and did not bring up any relief at all for months. Democrats won the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress promising a major effort to address the pandemic.

Polling shows that Republican lawmakers are badly out of touch with their constituents on this legislation.

Last week, a Politico/Morning Consult survey found 76% of voters support the $1.9 trillion bill — including 60% of GOP voters.

A Navigator Research poll the previous week saw 73% support for the bill, including 53% GOP support.

And Tuesday, Public Policy Polling released a survey showing the bill is even more popular than puppies, by 55% to 23%.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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