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Congress on Monday night passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package after months of political gridlock, with the Senate nearly unanimously voting in favor of the measure, save for six Republican senators.
The 5,593-page bill handily passed in the House 359-53 before being approved by the Senate 92-6. The six votes against the measure came from Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rand Paul (Ky.) Rick Scott (Fla.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ted Cruz (Texas).
The six senators were mostly critical of the financial and physical scale of the bill.
Paul called the bill a “spending monstrosity” saying “so-called conservatives” who vote for the measure would be no better than socialist Democrats.
“When you vote to pass out free money, you lose your soul and you abandon forever any semblance of moral or fiscal integrity,” he said.
He instead supported opening the economy and trimming wasteful spending in the budget in order to stop creating additional debt for future generations.
Johnson similarly said in a statement that the government does “not have an unlimited checking account.”
“We must spend federal dollars — money we are borrowing from future generations — more carefully and place limits on how much we are mortgaging our children’s future.”
He clarified that while he supported the sweeping CARES Act in the spring as swift, massive action was needed then to “prevent an economic meltdown,” that this time around he wanted to take a more targeted approach; In September he proposed a smaller $600 billion relief bill.
Scott also pushed against the “massive omnibus spending bill that mortgages our kids & grandkid’s futures.”
He said in a tweet he would not support the bill, adding in a statement that “Washington doesn’t seem to understand that new spending today will be paid for by increased federal debt and result in a tax increase on families down the road.”
“The easy route is simply to go along as Congress continues to do harm to future generations of Americans, but I will not be a part of it,” he said.
However, Johnson said that while he was “glad a government shutdown was avoided and that financial relief will finally reach many who truly need it,” he was critical of the “dysfunction” of the process.
“The dysfunction of Washington, D.C. was on full display as Congress combined covid relief with a massive omnibus spending bill three months past the deadline and into the current fiscal year,” Johnson said. “This monstrosity was 5,593 pages long, and passed only nine hours after the Senate first saw it.”
“I simply could not support this dysfunction, so I voted no,” he said.
Cruz and Lee also pushed back against lawmakers being given just hours to read several thousand pages of legislation.
In response to a tweet by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), in which the progressive lawmaker lamented having to vote on the bill without receiving adequate time to review it, Cruz agreed that the process is “absurd.”
“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,” Cruz tweeted.
Lee echoed these criticisms, posting a video to Twitter in which he showed how long it took just to print the bill: three minutes for just the first 100 pages of the massive bill.
“Because of the length it is impossible that anyone will have the opportunity to read it between now and the time that we will vote,” Lee said in the video. “And I am absolutely certain that this has been cobbled together by a very small handful of members of Congress and their staffs and to the exclusion of 98% of members of Congress of both political parties in both houses.”
“This process, by which members of Congress are asked to defer blindly to legislation negotiated entirely in secret by four of their colleagues, must come to an end,” he said.
Cruz and Blackburn also criticized some of the funding areas that had made their way into the $1.4 trillion spending bill with which the COVID relief legislation was bundled.
Cruz said the bill “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[.]”
It also sets the stage “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,” he said.
While Blackburn acknowledged that the legislation had a number of positives, including the development and distribution of vaccines, assistance to schools and help for small businesses, she said it came at too high a cost and included a number of measures she could not support.
“I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder,” she said in a statement. “I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments. For these reasons, I voted no on passage of this legislation.”