Sen. John Thune
While Democrats have tried to sell their recently signed $1.9 trillion spending legislation as a COVID relief bill, the truth is it isn’t one. Just 1 percent of this bill actually goes to our top COVID priority – vaccinations – and less than 10 percent of this bill is directly related to combating the virus. There’s been a lot of talk about how this bill is a liberal wish list – which it is. But that’s almost being too generous.
A liberal wish list at least suggests some grand policy schemes. This bill is mostly just a collection of payoffs to Democrat interest groups and Democrat states. For the extreme abortion wing of the Democrat Party, this bill omits longstanding federal restrictions on using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion. It makes labor unions eligible for loans designed to rescue Main Street small businesses. It bails out failing union pensions – a bailout even the New York Times described as having “nothing to do with the pandemic” and as an “almost unheard-of” use of taxpayer dollars.
It provides nearly $129 billion for K-12 schools – despite the fact that these schools have spent just $5 billion of the $68 billion already given to them – while keeping teachers’ unions happy by making sure funding isn’t tied to any requirement to actually get back to in-person instruction, which South Dakota teachers and schools have been doing all year.
Then there’s the money for states. The bill appropriates a staggering $350 billion for states – despite the fact that a majority of states already have the resources they need to weather the rest of the pandemic. On top of that, the distribution formula for that $350 billion is heavily weighted in favor of blue states – like California, which stands to see billions under this legislation despite the fact that California’s revenues are up by $15 billion. Imagine the outcry if Republicans were directing funding to states that voted Republican in the last election.
And lest anyone think any of this was unintentional, Democrats doubled down on the partisanship when it came to amendments. They rejected an amendment that would have protected Americans from having their tax dollars used to pay for abortions – even though multiple Democrats broke ranks with their party to support this amendment. They rejected an amendment to tie funding for schools to schools actually reopening and an amendment to ensure seamless support to non-public schools serving low-income students.
They rejected an amendment to stop labor unions from taking loan money intended for small businesses. They rejected an amendment to provide greater transparency on nursing home COVID deaths – presumably in an attempt to protect the Democrat governor of New York, who is under fire for seemingly deliberate attempts to obscure reporting of these deaths. In a nod to the far-left environmental wing of their party, they rejected an amendment to reverse the president’s cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will cost thousands of American jobs.
Democrats passed an amendment that provides an incentive for some Americans to stay on unemployment by making more than $10,000 of their unemployment benefits non-taxable. Working Americans will still have to pay their taxes – even if they’re making less money than they would on unemployment. But a substantial amount of unemployment benefits will be tax-free. That doesn’t seem too fair. Not to mention that the last thing we should be doing right now is discouraging people from going back to work.It’s deeply disappointing that Democrats have turned a bipartisan process into a totally partisan exercise. We could have passed a bill with overwhelming support from both parties, but that would have required Democrats to be willing to genuinely collaborate with Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that collaboration is not a part of the new way of doing business in the Democrat-led Senate. No matter the roadblocks, you can be sure I will continue fighting for South Dakota’s hardworking citizens and our priorities.