Congress Labeled End-Of-Year Spending Bill “COVID Relief” to Cover the Pork


As we’ve covered thoroughly at RedState, Congress passed a pork-filled monstrosity Monday and called it COVID relief, believing that a $600 check would satiate most Americans and keep them from looking deeper into the bill’s contents.

In most years that might be true, but during a year in which a good part of the country has been locked down for nine months, in which millions have lost their jobs (and more), and in which the hypocrisy and corruption of our elected “leaders” has been fully revealed, well, good luck with that.

It took months for Congress to act on pandemic relief back in the spring, and they tried to attach a bunch of pork then, too. The first bill bought them a few months – months which brought the problems with the bill into full view – but still, House Democrats didn’t seriously push for any type of targeted bill because they knew it would give Donald Trump a PR victory.

So now that coronavirus cases are spiking across the country, and especially in very blue states like California and New York, and since draconian shutdown orders are forcing millions of Americans toward the brink of bankruptcy – oh, and because Joe Biden allegedly won the election – Nancy Pelosi and crew are suddenly willing to work on passing some kind of relief bill.

After a few weeks of serious negotiations, word came over the weekend that there was an agreement and that a vote was imminent. But the text of the bill? Nowhere to be found. Some Democrats, including AOC, whined about that on social media, but, as my colleague Jeff Charles pointed out, Democrats in the House voted to suspend the rule that gives members 72 hours to read a bill before it’s voted on.

Oops.

Of course, once the text of the bill was available, journalists, pundits, and laypeople all delved into its contents and started itemizing all of the pork contained in what politicians from both sides of the aisle were claiming was a “COVID stimulus bill” or “COVID relief bill.”

As one friend noted, “It’s as if the bill’s main intent was to fund a bunch of foreign countries and Congress told the American people they could keep the change.”

The dirty little secret (which isn’t too much of a secret for people who’ve been paying attention) is that the bill’s main purpose wasn’t COVID relief or economic stimulus. Its formal name is the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021,” and the government would have shut down had Congress not passed some spending bill.

In actuality, the COVID relief was something tacked onto another bill, not the other way around.

Still, there is a lot to detest about the bill and about the way it was negotiated. Terrible programs were funded because Members of Congress didn’t want to look like uncaring elitists during Christmas week when so many are suffering.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) perfectly illustrated the problems with this method of legislation in a Facebook post late Monday:

Though the mainstream media and lobbyists will hail this legislative monstrosity as a tremendous victory, make no mistake: urgently-needed COVID-19 relief was tied to a $1.4 trillion wasteful end-of-year spending bill and countless pet projects that will escape close scrutiny because three times, congressional Democrats rejected good faith efforts to pass targeted relief.

With new shutdown orders targeting small businesses and disproportionately affecting minority and low-income workers, many Americans remain out of work and unable to make ends meet. According to one study, one in four small business owners will close their doors if economic conditions don’t improve soon. Had this bill been solely focused on re-opening the economy, getting Americans back to work, and jump starting a recovery, it would have had my enthusiastic support. For example, the final COVID-19 package rejects Democrats’ misguided attempts to bail out blue states’ underfunded pension plans and replenishes the Paycheck Protection Program – which will go a long way in helping small businesses keep their doors open and employees on the payroll.

It also includes funding for vaccine procurement and distribution, and will support states in their efforts to expand testing. With two vaccines already distributed to Americans across the country, these are meaningful developments as we work to defeat this virus, re-open our country, and continue to grow our economy. But they should have been passed in a standalone bill months ago, instead of in a bloated package thrown together during the annual year-end taxpayer funded spending spree.

Exactly! Standalone bills for something as significant as a global pandemic, economic turmoil (to put it mildly), and a new vaccine. Cruz continued, noting the things Democrats held hostage and items that were simply funding “swamp lobbyists”:

Unfortunately, this behemoth did not end there.

Generations of Americans are already stuck with a $27 trillion national debt, and Washington politicians are indiscriminately adding to the tab. This nearly 5,600-page spending package fails to make any meaningful spending cuts and instead advances the interests of the radical Left, special interests, and swamp lobbyists, with funding going towards expanding authority for more H-2B visas for foreign workers while a near record number of Americans remain unemployed, as well as laying the ground work for Democrats to implement the ‘Green New Deal’ by claiming a ‘need’ to meet the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, or zero-emission energy sources.

Unfortunately, in addition to badly needed coronavirus relief, Democrats held hostage important national security and military measures to pass their liberal wish list, including support for weapons systems like the F-35 and B-21 bomber programs, which I have consistently fought for, as well as missile defense technologies that we work with our Israeli allies to develop for our mutual safety. Finally, this legislation included several measures related to international diplomacy that I have championed, from ensuring that our allies in Europe, Middle East, and Western Hemisphere have the resources to defend themselves, all the way to requiring that the State Department revisit its guidelines that undermine our Taiwanese allies by, among others things, prohibiting them from displaying symbols of their sovereignty.

I would have also enthusiastically voted for the Water Resource Development Act, which is critical for the construction of the Port of Houston’s ship channel expansion project, a port that supports roughly 3.2 million jobs.

These are important proposals and they should not have been muddied by this multi-trillion dollar mess. Like I’ve said before, this haphazard spending process is yet another example of the brokenness of Congress.

As my fellow RedStater Becca Lower wrote about the bill’s passage, Congress took their eyes off the ball by worrying more about their pet programs and special interests to reward post-election than about the families suffering across the country. Cruz agreed:

Far too many parents also remain unable to send their children to school. An entire generation of students’ education has been put on hold, as children and teachers alike have been left to navigate the challenges of distance learning. And yet this bill does nothing to expand school choice or empower families with the flexibility they need to support their children’s education. In fact, just the opposite – in a bad sign for America’s kids and the state of the U.S. education system during the pandemic, this bill delays NAEP, the national school assessment testing.

Simply put, Democrats exploited the need for relief to advance their political agenda instead of working on legislation that puts our nation on the path to recovery. Now more than ever, our focus should be on providing parents and families support for their children’s education as they’re struggling with school disruptions during this pandemic, empowering small businesses to re-hire their employees and re-open their doors by cutting taxes and rolling back burdensome federal regulations, and reining in out of control spending that further exacerbates the economic challenges we’re currently facing. These are the priorities I’ll continue to fight for in the Senate, because these are the priorities of the American people.

I’ve seen no one, regardless of political affiliation, who likes this bill. President Trump should veto it and tell Congress to stay in town through Christmas to get their job done.





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