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December 22, 2020

Congressional Unity on Spending Blowout

$2.3 trillion, 5,600 pages, and six hours. If this is bipartisanship, who needs it?

“This action in the lame-duck session is just the beginning,” proclaimed Joe Biden. “Our work is far from over.” He was talking about both houses of Congress passing on Monday the $900 billion COVID relief package, combined with a $1.4 trillion omnibus bill to fund government agencies through September. The government can shut down your business, but heaven forbid the government stop spending money. And Biden isn’t done yet, saying earlier this month, “I’m going to ask for more.”

COVID relief contains a number of provisions, but the three primary pillars are an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program of loans for small business, a $300 boost to unemployment checks, and another round of individual payments (this time $600 per person) for most Americans (individuals earning $75,000 or less, and married couples filing jointly earning $150,000, plus $600 per dependent child). But the package also includes billions more in rental assistance, bailouts for movie theaters and schools, child care, and so much more.

The package is far smaller than Congress’s last COVID spending spree of $2.2 trillion in March. And it’s less than a third of what Nancy Pelosi spent eight months demanding after the House passed another $3.4 trillion in May, followed by $2.2 trillion in October, neither of which was taken up by the Senate. Why is she okay with less money now? “Because we have a new president,” she explained recently.

Higher unemployment benefits are an incentive to stay unemployed. That hasn’t changed. Moreover, according to The Heritage Foundation, “While the impulse to preserve jobs is understandable, the Paycheck Protection Program cost over $100,000 per job saved based on several studies. Worse, the program was not properly targeted, creating inequalities between businesses. These loans also make it easier for state and local governments to justify overly restrictive lockdowns.” That’s just one issue Heritage finds with this spending bill.

The much larger problem, however, continues to be runaway federal debt made worse by pandemic panic. Clearly, neither party really cares about the debt, and most voters just don’t want their own favorite programs cut. But at some point, $27.5 trillion in federal debt is going to cause disaster of its own.

Don’t miss the fact that government is spending your money to fix what government broke. “Stay at home,” bureaucrats say. “But here’s more money to spend when you go out,” they also say. “And here’s some money for the businesses we closed.”

Your elected representatives at work.

How long did members of Congress have to consider this 5,600-page behemoth? About six hours.

That didn’t sit well with Senator Ted Cruz, for one, who complained, “It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then — hours later — demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read.”

South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman likewise called it “awful governance, and a disservice to the American people.”

What about the massive deficit spending?

Senator Rand Paul tore into that, saying, “If money really did grow on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000? Maybe these new Free-Money Republicans should join the Everybody-Gets-A-Guaranteed-Income Caucus. Why not $20,000 a year for everybody? Why not $30,000? If we can print out money with impunity, why not do it?”

The Senate vote was 92-6, with just six Republicans opposed: Rick Scott (FL), Mike Lee (UT), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Ted Cruz (TX), and Ron Johnson (WI). The House vote was 359-53, including 50 GOP “nays.”

There’s no doubt that millions of Americans are hurting financially. Even if some aren’t “hurting,” they can still use the extra cash this Christmas. But the outrageous reality is that government has grossly mismanaged this pandemic at virtually every level, and now government is coming to the “rescue” with the money of taxpayers not yet even born. The people getting the most relief are the DC politicians who can pat themselves on the back in fundraising appeals to their constituents.

Update: Despite the overwhelming majorities in both houses, President Donald Trump isn’t going to just sign this without a fight. “Throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked COVID relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left-wing agenda and influence the election,” Trump said. “Then, a few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people. It’s taken forever. However, the bill they are planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated.”

“For example, among the more than 5,000 pages in this bill, which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity,” he added. “It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID.”

That’s exactly right. So is the list of totally non-COVID items he went on to list. But then he went populist.

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists, and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” he said. “It wasn’t their fault; it was China’s fault, not their fault.”

“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.”

Nancy Pelosi immediately jumped on that bandwagon, declaring, “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”

So stay tuned…

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