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Blunt Slams Senate Democrats for Rushing Partisan $1.9 Trillion COVID Bill

February 04, 2021

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the U.S. Senate floor to criticize Senate Democrats for rushing a partisan, $1.9 trillion COVID package through Congress just weeks after the latest $900 billion relief package was signed into law. As Blunt noted, much of that funding has not been spent and the Biden administration has failed to work in a bipartisan way to explain what unmet needs remain. 

 Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:

“Mr. President, this week the Senate is engaged in what I personally believe to be a disappointing exercise of really partisan political power at the expense of American taxpayers. When it became clear that the Senate was going to be split 50-50 – by the way, it doesn’t get closer than that – there was a moment of hope, I think, on both sides, that this would be the opportunity that we'd all have to really begin to seek ways to find how we could work together. …

“So far, that hope appears to be a little bit short-lived. We're supposedly voting to pass a budget right now that expresses the priorities of the Congress on how limited tax dollars should be allocated. …

“What we're really doing here is passing a budget that allows us to set up what I think is an ill-advised partisan moment, where one side believes they can do whatever they want to without the other side. …

“The plan’s to muscle through a really partisan $1.9 trillion package that claims to be about COVID relief but covers really a number of totally unrelated things. People have talked a lot about the fact that the minimum wage is there and whether it would meet the standard of reconciliation. …

“Clean energy is in the COVID relief package. COVID relief is different than clean energy. That's certainly a debate worth having, but let's not suggest that it's COVID relief when it's not.

“If one half of the Senate is determined to impose its will on the other half without even working to find a real path forward, I think that's an unfortunate sign. Democrats have said there is an urgent need for this COVID relief – so urgent we can't wait to have a real debate. …

“You know, we just passed $900 billion in relief, and we're beginning to talk about such big numbers here that suddenly $900 billion is sort of passed away as, well that’s not nearly enough. But, the truth is the $900 billion bill was just signed into law December the 27th. That was five weeks ago. …

“$900 billion – most of that money remains unspent and suddenly we want to spend another $1.9 trillion. That's an aggressive pace, even by the standards of some of my friends in the other half of this chamber or the other half of the Congress. It really, in so many ways, is simply too soon to really know exactly what we need next. We haven't taken the time yet to get the other money out of the door. …

“We haven't taken the time to see how it's going and whether the policies we planned were the policies that really work. …

“But here's what we've done already. We provided $8.75 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution. So far, they've released $3 billion of that money. … With nearly $6 billion left in that fund, how do we know exactly how it's working or exactly how much we need? We seem to be sure that what we've got isn't enough. I’m not sure we even know that yet, but I've been an advocate in every one of the bills we've done for money for distribution of the vaccine. And, I'd love to see how the money that's out there works. …

“In December we provided $82 billion for schools and for education. Elementary schools that were supposed to get almost $70 billion of that money to reopen, haven't reopened. Many of them haven't had a chance to spend the money. In fact, many of the K-12 schools haven't even spent all the money they got in April. …

“Last week, Dr. Fauci said in an interview that it was the goal of President Biden to get K-8 students back to school in the next hundred days. But in another event that same day, he said, maybe as truthfully as you could possibly be, it might not work out that way. We need to be really committed to get kids back to school. …

“You know, I served as the Chairman of the Education, Labor, and Health Subcommittee on Appropriations. I'm now the top Republican in that 50-50 committee. And last year, our subcommittee provided funding for schools that would help them address the pandemic and reopen.

“We provided money to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments. We provided money to continue critical funding for programs to address substance abuse and mental health and suicide and things that have been a real problem for an isolated, pandemic-bound population. We need to do all of those things.

“I'm more than happy to be part of that discussion. I want to help meet these challenges. I hope the administration understands that. …

“We've had real success in developing vaccines. We need to have more success in getting those vaccines out. I've not seen the administration or my colleagues on the other side of the aisle make the case yet as to why we need to spend the amount of money they're talking about spending. I've not seen anyone make the case of why it's good to start off this administration and this term of Congress in the most partisan, one-sided way possible before we’ve really had a chance to talk this out. …

“I was glad to see the White House accepted the offer of 10 of our Republican colleagues to at least meet and talk about some bipartisan issues. But the unwillingness of the Democratic leader here to slow down this process made it clear that really there may not be that much interest in really trying to find a solution. …

“Bipartisanship is not something you do just for show. Compromise is not my way or the highway. Unity is not telling everyone else the only option is to accept your side of the argument.

“I hope my colleagues think better of this bipartisan exercise, come to the table, and explain what we really need, and why we need it. If they don't, I hope we can still figure out how to recover and move forward.”


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