February 24, 2021

Smith, Comer Op-Ed: Dems' $1.9T COVID relief bill – wrong plan, wrong time, wrong reasons. Here's why.

By Rep. Jason Smith, Rep. James Comer


Democrats in Washington are charging full speed ahead on a hastily crafted, nearly $2 trillion spending package.

The goal is to satisfy a political agenda and bail out political allies. The guise is COVID-19 relief. Regardless, their plan means tremendous harm to America’s working-class. It is the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons.

On Monday, the Democrat majority on the House Budget Committee continued what has been a completely partisan process by holding debate and a vote on a legislative package that represented the work of nine separate committees two weeks earlier. During the nine committee markups that preceded Monday’s House Budget Committee activities, Republicans offered 229 amendments. Only two, or less than 1%, were adopted.

Under the arcane budget process the Democrat majority is using to jam through bad policy, no amendments could be offered during Budget Committee proceedings. What Republicans did offer was a full-throated defense of America’s working-class. There was much to discuss.

With $510 billion in spending, the Democrat plan would bail out state and local governments, rewarding state and local officials who perpetuate painful lockdowns in their communities.

These lockdowns have meant the closure of more than 100,000 small businesses across the country. Schools have yet to reopen, robbing kids of an education and their parents of time, money and security. Worst of all, there are severe physical and mental scars that can come from keeping communities boarded up.

While rewarding policies at the local level that destroy jobs and harm working-class Americans, the Democrat plan would dispense its own share of economic pain from Washington.

There is a $15 Washington mandate that would make life harder for low-wage, disabled and less-educated workers. It would increase the cost of living – particularly damaging for seniors and others living on fixed incomes – and, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, comes at the expense of 1.4 million jobs.

Under the plan’s further expansion of unemployment insurance, more than half of Americans would earn more from an unemployment benefit than from a paycheck. Increasing taxpayer subsidies for ObamaCare enrollees and establishing a form of universal basic income would lead to fewer hours worked in our economy.

These policies might sound nice, but they will be a disaster for working-class American families.

Economists – including prominent former Clinton and Obama appointee, Larry Summers – are saying all this spending is not needed to sustain the current trajectory of economic growth or compensate for a shortfall in economic output; not to mention the unintended long-term consequences for the American economy.

Less than 9% of the spending in the bill would go toward combating COVID-19 through public health measures like vaccinations, testing and tracking the virus. Of the $130 billion in spending that Democrats claim is desperately needed to reopen America’s K-12 public schools, only 5% would occur this fiscal year – a clear sign that their urgency to notch some wins for their political base is not matched with an urgency to get schools open in the near future.

If it becomes law, the Democrat plan would bring total COVID-19 response spending to nearly $6 trillion – a sum larger than the economies of every nation on Earth except the U.S. and China. Spending on this scale is an open invitation to waste, fraud and abuse, and efforts to encourage more transparency have not been embraced by the Biden administration.

It is estimated that nearly $1 trillion in existing COVID-19 funding remains unspent. We recently introduced a resolution that would require President Biden provide to Congress a thorough and accurate accounting of any unspent COVID-19 funding. Such a simple measure of transparency ought to be a prerequisite before more is asked of American taxpayers.

There are reports the Democrat leadership in the House may make further changes to the bill before Congress votes on it, overruling even the work of the committees they control. Rather than trying to make a bad plan more palatable to the razor-thin majority of votes they control in the House and Senate, Democrats ought to put these bad ideas back on the shelf and give working-class Americans some relief.

Rep. Jason Smith represents Missouri's 8th Congressional District and is the Republican leader of the House Budget Committee.

Rep. James Comer represents Kentucky's 1st Congressional District and is the Republican leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Read op-ed online here.