By Tom Ozimek
Republicans are rallying against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) the latest to pan the package as a wish list of liberal spending priorities unrelated to the pandemic.
Kennedy made the remarks on Fox News‘ “America’s Newsroom” Thursday, when he alleged that, “the profligacy is mind-numbing.”
“The motto of the Biden administration seems to be ‘we can’t spend too much,’” he said.
Kennedy took aim at some controversial provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act, which includes such spending priorities as $750 million for the global response to COVID-19, $270 million for arts and humanities endowments, $200 million for museums and libraries, and $100 million for an electric train in Silicon Valley.
“This isn’t a coronavirus bill,” the Louisiana senator said. “This is a left-of-Lenin, neo-socialist wish list.”
By late Wednesday, not a single Republican in either chamber had publicly said he or she would back the Biden administration’s proposed relief bill.
“I haven’t seen a Republican yet that’s found something in there that they agree with,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I think all Republicans believe in three simple things: They want a bill that puts us back to work, back to school, and back to health. This bill is too costly, too corrupt, and too liberal.”
The hardening opposition suggests that Biden’s first major legislative initiative could face a wall of unanimous GOP opposition.
The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest conservative caucus on Capitol Hill, released a fact sheet exposing what “Democrats are hoping the public won’t find about” in the relief bill.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), RSC’s newly elected chairman, said in a memo (pdf) sent to caucus members that Democrats have included items of “special interest pork and other liberal goodies” in the proposal. He echoed Kennedy’s take that the bill contains spending that’s unrelated to the pandemic.
“Keep in mind only one percent of this $1.9 trillion will go toward vaccines, and only five percent overall of this entire package is geared toward public health efforts directly related to the pandemic,” Banks said in an interview with Fox News.
The memo attacked Biden’s package as a job killer that does too little to reopen schools or businesses shuttered due pandemic, calling it not just wasteful but also unscrupulous—with provisions that are “pro-abortion,” “soft on China,” and that promote illegal immigration.
Democrats have showed no signs of backing down, however, citing the assistance as a measure that would spread to people, businesses, and state and local governments.
“If congressional Republicans want to oppose all that, my response is: Good luck,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor.
President Joe Biden has said that the legislation needs to pass.
“We need Congress to pass my American Rescue Plan. It deals with the immediate crisis facing our small businesses,” Biden said on Feb. 22. “Now, critics say the plan is too big. Let me ask them a rhetorical question: What would you have me cut? What would you leave out?”
Biden said earlier that he expects his proposal will pass even without Republican support, as the bill is being advanced via budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority to clear the Senate.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.
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