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Crapo: Massive COVID “Relief” Bill Misses the Mark

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted against H.R.1319, the nearly $2 trillion budget reconciliation bill.  This partisan bill, the product of a rushed process and non-pandemic wish-list items, passed in the U.S. Senate by a party-line vote of 50-49.

“In 2020, Congress passed five bipartisan bills, totaling nearly $4 trillion, in pandemic relief,” said Crapo.  “No bill earned fewer than 90 votes in the Senate, and the largest of those bills--the CARES Act--had unanimous Senate support.  The fifth bill was signed into law a few short months ago, and over $1 trillion in relief funds have yet to be spent.  Our economy is recovering.  Just yesterday, the jobs report beat expectations.  Vaccine distribution and administration is well underway and accelerating.  This fight is not over, and some further relief is required, but no clear data justifies the scale or scope of this bill.  

“Economists across the political spectrum have said this bill is out of proportion compared to what is actually needed.  Congress should have focused on policies to help get more vaccines into peoples’ arms, get kids back in school, reopen businesses’ doors, and finally put this pandemic behind us.  Only a fraction of this bill goes toward vaccines and the health care fight.  Moreover, we should have debated political wish-list wants versus Americans’ needs.  This process bypassed committees, bypassed regular order, and was devoid of true deliberation or debate.  This spending spree grossly misses its mark, and places an undue burden on future generations.”   

Senate Republicans filed hundreds of amendments to improve the legislation.  As the lead Republican of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Crapo offered several commonsense provisions to improve the bill: 

Right-Size State and Local Recovery Funds: This amendment would have reduced funding for state and local governments to an appropriate amount of about $100 billion, from $350 billion.  Overall, state and local governments have fared much better than was initially expected near the beginning of the pandemic, and much of the new funding will go to states with little or no need, including those in a budget surplus.  Reducing the amount is a far more fiscally responsible result for taxpayers.  

Targeted Relief: This $1.9 trillion bill sacrifices immediate, targeted COVID relief for struggling workers and main street businesses in favor of longstanding Democrat priorities. This motion would have simply sent the bill to the Finance Committee--where this process should have started under regular order--with instructions to provide targeted and timely tax relief to families and businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Prevent Medicare Cuts: The Congressional Budget Office estimates this $1.9 trillion bill will trigger a $36 billion cut to Medicare next year.  This amounts to a staggering cut of $180 billion over 5 years--a direct hit to the very people this bill is intended to help.  This motion would have sent the bill back to the Finance Committee with directions to reduce spending by an amount that would help to avoid those $180 billion in Medicare cuts.   

Preserving States’ Rights: The relief bill includes a restriction on allowable uses of funds for states and territories to prevent them from using funds to cut taxes, essentially saying that tax cuts are not viewed favorably by the federal government, even if implemented during a pandemic and associated large economic downturn.  Such a restriction also infringes on states’ authority to design its own fiscal policies to suit whatever state governments believe are appropriate.  The amendment would have eliminated this provision.