Thursday, February 22, 2024

Montana taxpayers should not foot bill for liberal agenda disguised as COVID relief

| April 2, 2021 7:00 AM

Over the course of 2020, Congress passed five bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages.

Republicans were in the majority in the Senate and President Donald Trump was in office. As Republicans, we committed to working in a bipartisan manner to deliver needed relief to Montanans and all Americans struggling because of this historic pandemic.

We thought President Joe Biden was on board with this mission. He campaigned on a promise of bipartisanship and unity, but he threw that out the window as soon as he finished his inaugural address and chose to jam a $1.9 trillion spending package through Congress without any Republican input, and without a single Republican vote.

I sought compromise and supported a targeted, $650 billion bill that truly focused on ending the pandemic, getting folks back to work and our children back in the classroom. I could not support the Democrats’ so-called COVID-19 relief package and could not ask Montanans to cover the cost when 90 percent of this bill does nothing to address the core health needs of fighting COVID-19. Rather than provide COVID relief, Democrats capitalized on the crisis to push their liberal agenda and unleash a new era of big government.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and the White House are even calling this bill the “most progressive legislation in history.”

Democrats rushed this package through Congress on a party-line vote so that the American people would not have the time to learn what was actually in it.

A few of the most egregious pieces of the legislation include:

• A $350 billion bailout for blue states that had financial problems before the pandemic — some of these states, like California, are now experiencing significant revenue surpluses

• Nearly $130 billion for schools even though 95 percent of the funds will not be used to reopen schools this year

• More than $40 billion to expand Obamacare, subsidize it for wealthier Americans and begin the government takeover of healthcare in America

• About $5 billion to pay “reparations” to farmers and ranchers that fall into certain minority categories

• A federal mandate preventing state governments from cutting taxes until 2024

None of these billions of dollars is going towards COVID relief. Instead, these taxpayer dollars are helping to fund the liberal agenda or to pay out political favors for the Democrats.

Unfortunately, Montana taxpayers will be footing this bill. What’s more, Democrats forced through this costly law even though we still have $1 trillion in unspent relief funds from the previous bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages, including $450 billion from the bipartisan law Congress passed last December.

In short, shoveling almost 2 trillion more dollars into an economy that is poised to rebound as businesses reopen is deeply irresponsible, will needlessly cause our debt to soar to new heights and could harm our economic recovery by sparking massive inflation.

Thanks, in part, to the previous bipartisan COVID relief packages, the American comeback is already underway. Unemployment has been steadily decreasing and the GDP is expected to grow by as much as 10 percent in the first three months of the year. Personal savings rates have more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels and manufacturing is at its highest growth level since August 2018.

We are turning the corner in the healthcare battle with this pandemic as vaccines are distributed and hospitalization rates decrease. In Montana, we have seen hospitalizations drop every month since December, have fully vaccinated more than 140,000 Montanans, and were recently ranked No. 1 in the nation for vaccine administration.

Getting shots in arms is what we should be focusing on. Efficient vaccine distribution is what will end this pandemic and get life back to normal. Yet sadly, only 1 percent of Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) COVID-19 relief package goes to vaccines. That is unacceptable.

This $1.9 trillion package is not about ending the pandemic. It is about ushering in Nancy Pelosi’s liberal vision for the country. I voted against this because I could not ask Montana taxpayers to cover the cost of their liberal wish list.

The author is a U.S. senator from Montana.