As President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package advances through Congress, Republicans are slamming the bill, accusing Democrats of stuffing it with wasteful pork and other progressive priorities not related to the coronavirus.
"The partisan bill Democrats are preparing is stuffed with non-COVID-related liberal goals and more band-aid policies as if the country were going to stay shut down another year," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted Monday. "We need 2021 to be different than 2020. Congress should focus on smart policies to help that happen."
House Democrats introduced their 591-page bill coronavirus bill last Friday, which contains $1,400 stimulus checks and various other pandemic-related relief measures including expanded unemployment benefits and business loans. But Republicans say other provisions of the bill are problematic and have nothing to do with economic relief.
For instance, included in the bill is a federal minimum wage increase to $15 by 2025 that would fulfill a campaign promise from President Biden but is not directly tied to coronavirus relief. Other provisions include payouts to "socially disadvantaged" farmers, hundreds of millions of dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities, $10 million to preserve Native American languages, a $15 billion bailout for the airline industry, and a host of other spending that was criticized by Republicans.
"The bill has over $1 trillion in bailouts, pork, and unrelated policy changes," Senate Republicans charge in a video advertisement released Tuesday.
"Don't let Dems tell you the 'American Rescue Plan' is a coronavirus relief bill," the ad states.
While President Biden's rhetoric supports bipartisanship, Democrats will advance the relief package in the Senate using a parliamentary procedure called budget reconciliation to avoid a filibuster and pass the bill without GOP support. They cite polls that show popular support for a coronavirus relief package and warn that Republicans are opposing their constituents by criticizing the bill. A Quinnipiac poll found that 68% of U.S. adults support Biden's proposal while 24% are opposed.
"The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package. And that should be an indication, or should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they're going to vote for it or not," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.
Those polls haven't stopped Republican lawmakers from speaking out about their opposition to the $1.9 trillion legislation.
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell accused Democrats of "steamrolling ahead with a massive spending plan on a completely partisan basis."
McConnell called the package "a combination of miscellaneous non-COVID-related liberal wishlist items."
Other Republicans share McConnell's thinking. On Tuesday morning Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News that Democrats want to use the coronavirus pandemic as "an excuse to fulfill a lot of longstanding liberal priorities."
In a statement Friday, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said, "House Democrats' $2 trillion socialist boondoggle puts partisan politics first and fails to address the most pressing needs facing Americans, like getting kids back in the classroom and reopening small businesses."
Even Republicans from outside Washington are weighing in. South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem criticized provisions of the bill that would provide funding to states and local governments facing budget shortfalls that existed before the pandemic and were exacerbated by lockdown policies that shut down local economies.
"It's a very, very unfair bill. It bails out those states that shut down their economies. It rewards them for making people stay in their homes and for taking away a business' right to be open and to take care of their customers and employees," Noem said Tuesday. "It's incredibly detrimental to our state because we made the right decisions, we trusted people."
As for Democrats, they are confident that the Republican opposition to the stimulus bill will ultimately backfire. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Washington Post last week that Biden's relief plan will lead to economic recovery and an end to the pandemic.
""I think the president's plan will work, and the Republicans should get behind it. And they will wish they had," Maloney said.