By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Both of Wyoming’s U.S. senators oppose the coronavirus relief bill approved by the U.S. Senate over the weekend.
As approved by the Senate, the bill now headed back to the U.S. House of Representatives for its approval includes stimulus payments of $1,400 for most taxpayers, along with extended unemployment benefits and funds for vaccine distribution, local governments, schools and small businesses.
But Lummis and Barrasso said in separate events that the bill contains funding for many programs that have nothing to do with coronavirus relief.
“Even after the most egregious, progressive handouts were stripped from this behemoth bill, we were left with a spending bill full of programs that have nothing to do with the targeted, temporary relief the people of Wyoming need to weather the rest of this pandemic,” Lummis said on Saturday, after the bill narrowly passed through the Senate.
The relief package totals $1.9 trillion.
Among measures removed from the bill in the Senate was a provision that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Senate also eliminated funding for an extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway in Silicon Valley and a bridge in upstate New York.
“What’s worse, after the two parties worked together on five different occasions last year to bring relief to the American people, Democrats decided this time to ignore Republican input or support at any point along the way – and this massive price tag is what they have to show for it,” Lummis said.
Lummis submitted seven amendments to the bill, including one to make the Shuttered Venue Grant program more accessible to Wyoming businesses such as concert venues and rodeo grounds, an amendment to redirect money from Amtrak to help the rural aviation industry and multiple amendments to ensure relief money is properly allocated to programs including veterans’ services and tribal health care.
Barrasso echoed Lummis’ statements that the bill directed too much money to items not connected with COVID relief.
“When people find out what’s in this bill, they’re going to lose any enthusiasm they may have for it right now,” Barrasso said during a “Meet the Press” appearance on Sunday. “This was not really about the coronavirus in terms of the spending. This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending, just basically filled with pork. It didn’t need to be this way.”
He made similar comments during an appearance on Fox News last week.
“The White House chief of staff said this is the most progressive, the most progressive piece of domestic legislation in a generation,” Barrasso said Sunday. “This was never about getting people back to work or kids back to school or the disease behind us. That’s where it should have been focused.”