U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the recently passed COVID-19 spending bill and the Democrats’ failure to work in a bipartisan way. Thune also discussed the breakdown of where the $1.9 trillion will go, including a $350 billion slush fund for state and local governments, school funding that isn’t tied to reopening, and a massive pension bailout.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to take a moment to express my sadness about Senator Blunt’s announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2022.
“He’s been a leader within our conference ever since he came over to the Senate, and he will be sorely missed.
“I will especially miss having him as a member of the whip team.
“His list of achievements is long.
“All Americans have benefited over the past year from his tremendous efforts to accelerate coronavirus testing and vaccine development.
“And less than two months ago, in his role as chairman of the Rules Committee, he oversaw a very successful inauguration, at a particularly challenging time.
“Mr. President, the one good thing is that Roy is not leaving us immediately.
“He’ll still be here for two more years, and I look forward to continuing to work with him and to seeing everything he will accomplish.
“Mr. President, “The Senate works best when we work together. … The challenges we face are great. The divisions in the country are real. We have no choice but to try to work together every day to reward the faith the American people have placed in us.”
“Those are not my words.
“Those were the words of the Democrat leader on Inauguration Day.
“But I agree with him.
“The Senate does indeed work best when we work together.
“For proof look no further than last week’s debacle – a good example of what happens when instead of working together, one party tries to strong-arm its legislation through the Senate.
“Last Friday was perhaps most notable for its 11-plus hour vote on an amendment.
“Democrats held a 15-minute vote open for nearly 12 hours – making it the longest vote in modern Senate history – because it had become clear that they were in danger of losing the support of one of their own members.
“It turns out that when you force a massive, liberal piece of legislation through the Senate without committee review, and without any attempt at soliciting input from the Senate as a whole, you start to lose support even from members of your own party.
“It was an embarrassing moment for the Democrat leadership, and a sad moment for the rest of the Senate.
“Mr. President, in that same speech on Inauguration Day, the Democrat leader pledged, “This Senate will legislate. … And to my Republican colleagues, when and where we can, the Democratic majority will strive to make this important work bipartisan.”
“There was no evidence of that here.
“Democrats didn’t try to make this bill bipartisan; in fact, they actively tried to make sure Republicans didn’t have a voice in this legislation.
“Remember that almost 12-hour amendment vote?
“Democrats held that vote open for nearly 12 hours solely because they were afraid that a Republican amendment would pass.
“Republicans were more than willing to work with Democrats on COVID relief – as we did last year on five separate COVID bills.
“But Democrats didn’t want Republicans interfering with their legislation.
“Mr. President, I want to talk about those previous COVID bills for a minute.
“Prior to Democrats taking control of the Senate, COVID relief was a bipartisan process.
“Under Republican control, the Senate passed five COVID relief bills with overwhelming bipartisan majorities.
“Because both Democrats and Republicans had a voice in the legislation, there was no need to keep any of those votes open to engage in partisan arm-twisting.
“‘The Senate works best when it works together.’
“Mr. President, the bipartisan process on those other COVID bills didn’t just guarantee a bipartisan vote in the Senate.
“It also guaranteed that those other COVID bills were actually about COVID.
“Because both parties had to work together to get a result, neither party was able to hijack the bill for partisan purposes.
“Contrast that with the bill the Senate passed on Saturday.
“While Democrats have tried to sell their 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.
“Mr. President, 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.
“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 $27 billion 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.
“They rejected 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.
“Mr. President, I could go on for a while on amendments.
“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.
“Mr. President, in that speech the Democrat leader gave on Inauguration Day, he said, and I quote, “as the majority changes in the Senate, the Senate will do business differently.”
“‘The Senate will do business differently.’
“Well, now we’ve gotten a glimpse of what that looks like.
“And apparently it looks like ruthless partisanship and an attempt to completely silence the minority – and the Americans they represent.
“It’s deeply disappointing that Democrats have turned a bipartisan process into a totally partisan exercise.
“We could have passed a bill last week with overwhelming support from both parties.
“But that would have required Democrats to be willing to genuinely collaborate with Republicans.
“And unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that collaboration is not a part of the new way of doing business in the Democrat-led Senate.
“I hope my Democrat colleagues will change course in the days ahead and work with Republicans to unite our country.
“As the Democrat leader suggested on Inauguration Day, they owe the American people nothing less.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”