Senator Marsha Blackburn Stated That Senate Republicans Were Working On A Relief Bill Since July But Faced Opposition From Democrats Who Wanted To Include “Over 3 Trillion In Special Interest Giveaways” In The Relief Package.
Photo: U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
A $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill approved by both houses of Congress passed with opposition from five of the nine Republicans in Tennessee’s congressional delegation.
Tennessee U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn was one of six senators who voted against the stimulus package Monday night. She was joined in opposition by Tennessee U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, Mark Green and John Rose.
“I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder,” Blackburn said in a statement explaining her vote. “I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments.”
Blackburn said Senate Republicans have been working toward a relief bill since July but faced opposition from Democrats seeking to include “over $3 trillion in special interest giveaways” in the relief package.
The COVID-19 stimulus was attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government funded through September and avoid a shutdown.
While a proposed $160 billion for state and local governments was not included in the legislation, the omnibus bill does include $300 million for fisheries, $26 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and $10 million for “gender programs” in Pakistan, among other spending items.
Members of Congress received the 5,593-page legislation negotiated in private by Congressional leadership only hours before they cast their votes.
Burchett criticized the process, explaining that as the bill was “negotiated behind closed doors,” there was not enough time to “effectively evaluate” it.
“We are sent here to represent our communities, but like so many other representatives, I was never given the opportunity to speak on behalf of East Tennesseans,” Burchett said. “It’s a disgrace Speaker Pelosi used her coronavirus package to con House members into voting for her progressive government funding bills.”
Green’s office called the bill an “irresponsibly bloated $2.3 trillion backroom pork barrel.”
“I think every American can agree they would like their Member of Congress to have more than six hours to read a 5,593 page, $2.3 trillion bill before voting to bankrupt our children and grandchildren,” Green said in a statement.
Rose said he opposed continued federal unemployment relief and direct stimulus payments, calling the bill’s passage a “swampy, closed-door, last-minute rush to spend our national treasure.”
“The $300 weekly unemployment supplement hurts American businesses by incentivizing workers to stay home and sending direct payments to families making up to $174,000 is a misallocation of aid that could have otherwise helped those individuals, hospitals, schools, and small businesses that are truly in need during this pandemic,” Rose said in a statement.
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief portion of the bill will provide a $280 billion second round of forgivable business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. It also will provide direct payments of $600 to qualifying Americans, $300 a week in extended federal unemployment benefits and $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools reopening for in-person learning.
The stimulus also includes $15 billion for entertainment venues and movie theaters with significant revenue loss, $20 billion to make COVID-19 vaccines available for free to anyone who needs them, $13 billion for agriculture and $7 billion for broadband.
Outgoing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander supported the legislation, as did Tennessee Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, David Kustoff and Phil Roe.
“While our system is not perfect, this legislation funds important priorities that provide relief to West Tennessee businesses, healthcare workers, and struggling Americans,” Kustoff said in a statement. “I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law and giving our nation much-needed relief.”