By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
A $1.9 trillion spending bill touted by President Joe Biden as a measure to provide COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus is on the verge of passing Congress.
Area Congressmen are not impressed.
Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves claims less than 10% of the bill will target relief or stimulus and he points out an estimated $1 trillion of relief appropriated by Congress last year has yet to be spent.
“So why are we rushing into another $2 trillion on top of it and, again, this bill has everything in it, except actual COVID relief?” Graves asks in an interview with St. Joseph Post. “And it’s very frustrating.”
Graves complains about several provisions in the bill, including $135 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The veteran Congressman is also critical of the $12 billion allocation to foreign aid.
Republicans, including Graves, have been critical of a $112 million appropriation approved by the House for an underground railroad in the San Francisco district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Republicans also fought against a $350 billion allocation to help state and local governments which suffered a drop in tax revenue during business shutdowns early in the coronavirus pandemic.
Graves contends the local governments don’t need a federal bailout as much as they need a break in pandemic restrictions.
“If you want to make up the revenue that is lost as a result of the economic downturn, my idea is just open the economy back up; get people back out, allow them to go about their normal lives,” Graves says.
Graves doesn’t see a need for another stimulus package after Congress approved $900 billion in coronavirus relief at the end of last year.
“So why are we piling another two trillion on top of this that won’t even be spent this year? So, did we need it? Not at this time, we didn’t and we ultimately may end up being proven that we don’t need it at all,” Graves says. “If we can get the economy back open, I don’t think that we needed to spend this.”
Congress approved $600 direct payments to many Americans in that late 2020 bill when many called for $2,000 checks. This latest version of relief contains $1,400 checks to residents making less than $75,000 and couples make $150,000 to make up the difference with an extra $1,400 for each dependent.
Fellow Republican, eastern Kansas Congressman Jake LaTurner, contends the bill is a partisan spending spree.
“It’s a $1.9 trillion wish list for Democrat groups,” LaTurner tells St. Joseph Post. “Less than 9% of it goes to actual COVID health issues.”
The measure does contain $14 billion for research and development of vaccines. Just short of $50 billion is allocated for testing and contact tracing. It also includes $7.7 billion to hire 100,000 public health workers.
LaTurner claims the spending package rewards states controlled by Democrats who went overboard in pandemic restrictions and saw huge dips in tax revenue.
LaTurner says another COVID relief bill might be needed, but he says money already appropriated by Congress should be spent first.
“I think that there is a need for another bill,” LaTurner says. “I don’t think that that’s where we are today. If you have a trillion dollars left to go out the door, you should get that money out. You should see where there is more help needed.”
As for the version nearing passage, LaTurner criticizes the motive behind the measure.
“This isn’t a COVID bill. This is a Democrat wish list.”
No Republicans voted for it in the House. No Republicans voted for it in the Senate.
The package squeaked to passage in the Senate on Saturday. It appears the House will vote on the Senate version Tuesday and send it to President Biden’s desk.