U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID spending bill, noting that only 10 percent of the legislation is directly related to public health funding to combat COVID and that a large portion of it would contribute to their liberal wish list. Thune also underscored the harm this legislation could do to America’s already bruised economy and expressed his desire to work in a bipartisan manner to pass targeted COVID-19 relief funding that actually meets the needs of the American people.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, Democrats continue to push forward with their partisan COVID legislation.
“The House of Representatives passed Democrats’ $1.9 trillion partisan wish list on Saturday, and the Senate is expected to take it up later this week.
“Just weeks after the president expressed his commitment to unity at his inauguration, he and his party are forcing through exclusively partisan legislation – despite Republicans’ clear willingness to negotiate.
“Mr. President, when it comes to Democrats’ COVID bill, President Biden keeps asking, “What would you have me cut?” – as if there’s no way anyone could dispute the necessity of anything in this legislation.
“Well, Mr. President, as I said last week, I have some suggestions.
“Because this bill is rife with unnecessary and problematic provisions.
“Democrats are presenting this as a COVID relief bill, but a lot of this bill has little to do with responding to the pandemic.
“In fact, less than 10 percent of the bill is directly related to combating the COVID health crisis.
“If President Biden would like to know what to cut, let me suggest starting with the bill’s $350 billion slush fund for states.
“There’s no question that COVID has placed additional pressures on states – which is why Republicans supported targeted funding for states in previous COVID legislation.
“But at this point, the vast majority of states are not in crisis.
“A number of states actually saw higher tax revenues in 2020, and a majority of states, including my home state of South Dakota, have the resources they need to weather the rest of the pandemic.
“Even if the federal government bailed out those states that are still struggling – some at least partially because of their own mismanagement – $350 billion far, far exceeds the amount that would be needed.
“Democrats are simply providing a large and unnecessary giveaway to states – with the distribution formula heavily weighted in favor of blue states.
“Then there’s the bill’s funding for schools.
“Now, Republicans are committed to getting schools reopened so our kids can get back to the in-person learning they need.
“It’s why we voted for $68 billion in COVID funding for K-12 schools last year.
“But right now, Mr. President, schools don’t need additional funding.
“So far, K-12 schools have spent just $5 billion of the $68 billion we provided them.
“Yet Democrats’ bill would provide nearly $129 billion in additional funding.
“And despite all that additional – and unnecessary – money, nothing in the bill would require schools to actually reopen.
“Schools could collect this money while still depriving students of the benefits of in-person learning.
“And another thing, Mr. President.
“Democrats are billing this legislation as a COVID relief bill and suggesting that it’s providing urgently needed funding.
“Yet 95 percent of the bill’s money for schools – 95 percent – would be spent AFTER this year.
“Just 5 percent of this quote-unquote “emergency funding” would be spent in 2021.
“The rest would be spent between 2022 and 2028.
“Are we really supposed to believe that money that would be spent in 2028 – years after the pandemic is likely to be over – is urgently needed COVID relief funding?
“Mr. President, I could go on for a while here with suggestions for what to cut in this bill.
“I’m pretty sure that $100 million for a Silicon Valley underground rail project does not have a lot to do with getting our country out of the COVID crisis.
“Or $1.5 million for a bridge in the Democrat leader’s home state.
“Then there’s the $86 billion bailout for multiemployer pension plans.
“Billions for environmental policies.
“And a provision to ensure that Planned Parenthood and labor unions can apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to help small businesses.
“I’m not sure how far that will go toward helping our economy – but it will certainly help fill the coffers of some of Democrats’ political allies.
“Mr. President, if Democrats were really just focused on COVID relief, this would be a much smaller bill.
“But Democrats’ ambitions were much larger than just addressing the COVID crisis.
“A Democrat political operative famously said, “Never allow a good crisis go to waste.”
“Democrats have taken that advice, and are using the COVID crisis as cover for a whole list of partisan priorities – with potentially very negative consequences.
“Democrats’ COVID bill runs a very real risk of overstimulating the economy, which could, among other things, drive up prices on the goods Americans use every day.
“Even some liberal economists have sounded the alarm over the size of Democrats’ coronavirus legislation.
“Then, of course, there’s the danger posed by driving up our debt.
“We had to borrow a lot of money last year to meet the demands of the coronavirus crisis.
“And while it was money we needed to borrow, we need to be very aware of the fact that we added a substantial amount to our already very large national debt.
“We need to be very careful about any additional borrowing and ensure that we’re only borrowing what’s absolutely necessary.
“And that does not include money for a bridge in New York, or a taxpayer bailout for mismanaged states.
“Mr. President, it’s deeply disappointing that Democrats chose to turn their backs on bipartisanship.
“Republicans were ready to work with Democrats on additional targeted relief.
“Instead, Democrats chose to pursue a partisan process that would allow them to stuff the bill with unnecessary spending and political payoffs.
“That’s not the way to help our country – or our economy – recover.”