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Congress serves up $2.3 trillion pork sandwich

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 22, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — It remains to be seen whether Congress’ $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill will do Americans any good. It’s clear it won’t help America’s ballooning debt.

Wisconsin’s six Republican members of congress voted against the bill, expressing concerns about the spending package’s rush job,  it’s attachment to a pork-laden $1.4 trillion spending measure to keep a bloated federal government going, and the big tab it all will leave for coming generations.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said the dysfunction of Washington, D.C. was on full display this week when congress shoved through the COVID relief proposal and the omnibus spending bill with relatively little time to vet them.

“This monstrosity was 5,593 pages long, and passed only nine hours after the Senate first saw it. It will be weeks, maybe months, before we begin to understand all that has been included. I simply could not support this dysfunction, so I voted no,” the Oshkosh Republican said in a statement.

The spending bill’s mass may have been exceeded only by the ignorance of the elected representatives forced to vote on it. As Joe Concha wrote in The Hill, “It harkens back to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once explaining that a bill needed to be passed in order to find out what was in it.”

The latest coronavirus relief package establishes a $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit and a $600 direct “stimulus” payment to most Americans. It also includes financial support for businesses hit hard by the virus and government-ordered shutdowns and restrictions, as well as more funding for schools. There’s more money for the stretched health care sector. And renters get a break.

But taxpayers ultimately will have to pick up the tab for it all.

The stimulus payments weren’t big enough for President Trump. 

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” Trump said in a video Tuesday evening. The video was part of a tweet in which Trump castigated the relief package as a “disgrace.” 

He got backing from an unlikely source. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed with the president’s call for higher payments. 

U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) called the annual federal budget process “the definition of insanity.” Again on the brink of a government “shutdown,” the federal spending plan was three months past due. The usual last-minute “take-it-or-leave-it” spending bills written in secret will only exacerbate the $27.5 trillion national debt, the lawmaker said.

“What is happening in Washington has become an annual, instant-replay train wreck in the eyes of most Americans – whose elected representatives have little input on the debt being charged up on the nation’s credit card,” Tiffany said. “Americans deserve a real say in how their money is spent.”

Tiffany added the relief package could have passed on its own months ago, and he would have supported it as a “stand-alone bill.”

As for the omnibus bill, it’s got more pork than Iowa. Pakistan gets $10 million for gender programs. There’s all kinds of foreign aid as plenty of Americans struggle at home. Burma gets $135 million, Ukraine, $453 million, and Sudan takes home $700 million in taxpayer-funded assistance. It’s like an Oprah Winfrey Christmas giveaway. You get a car! You get a car! 

Trump criticized the foreign aide funding in the package.

“This combined spending bill will drive our debt to over $29 trillion by the end of this fiscal year,” said Johnson, who supported a bill in September that would have provided $600 billion in targeted relief.

“We do 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,” the senator said.

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