Morgan Griffith: Speaker Pelosi’s wrong priorities for COVID-19 relief
Since COVID-19 first developed, we have learned a lot about the virus. Although far from unlocking all its secrets, scientists now know much more about its symptoms and transmission, as well as how to treat it.
By contrast, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) does not appear to have learned much over the past few months. That is the unfortunate lesson to be drawn from her decision to put a bill with no chance of becoming law on the House floor months after the House already voted on a similar bill that went nowhere.
The original bill, H.R. 6800, was dubbed the HEROES Act by the Democrats and passed the House in May. It spent $3.4 trillion, much of it on liberal priorities far removed from needs arising out of the coronavirus pandemic.
That bill does not have enough support to pass the Senate. Previous coronavirus relief efforts have been signed into law by President Trump after passing both chambers with substantial bipartisan majorities.
After H.R. 6800 was dead in the water for several months, the reasonable course of action for Speaker Pelosi would have been to negotiate with Republicans in good faith on a compromise that could become law. Instead, the House Democrat leadership opted to put a similar version of H.R. 6800 on the floor on October 1.
Admittedly, HEROES Act 2.0 is less costly than the original bill. It would “only” spend $2.2 trillion. In a national emergency such as the pandemic, it is appropriate for Congress to spend more than it otherwise would, but that is not a license to spend freely on non-priorities. Further, Congress has already appropriated more than $3 trillion, much of which has not been spent.
It is notable what did not make the cut in a $2.2 trillion bill. Among the provisions that were in H.R. 6800 in May was $600 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program. That funding is now gone.
But it still retains many of the original bill’s misguided, counterproductive, and unnecessary policy changes and spending.
As Election Day nears, HEROES Act 2.0 imposes impossible and intrusive mandates on states regarding their conduct of elections, including prohibitions on voter ID requirements. These provisions take away control over administering elections from states, where it has traditionally resided, and opens the door to confusion and fraud.
At this point, we know that a high unemployment supplement can provide individuals with more income than returning to work, deterring them from going back to their jobs. Many employers have told me that this is the case.
If Speaker Pelosi was serious, she would have worked on a formula for unemployment that would work well in the different parts of the country, but HEROES 2.0 provides the same $600 per week provided for unemployment included when we didn’t have time to figure out a more effective formula.
I would support a reasonable amount for an unemployment supplement, but not so much that it encourages people to stay unemployed.
Further, illegal immigrants would be able to receive stimulus payments, as the bill does not require Social Security number verification.
Police officers may not receive any more money from the bill, but coastal billionaires do with the repeal of limitations on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. If you read this column regularly, you may remember this scheme, which has people in places like Saltville paying federal taxes to offset high local taxes in places like San Francisco and New York City.
I voted no on this legislation, but I know there are proposals that will help people and have broad support.
One such bill, H.R. 8265, introduced by Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), would allow qualified small businesses to receive a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, which has been an effective tool to keep Americans employed. It would also simplify the loan forgiveness process and expand eligible expenses covered by the loan.
If brought to the House floor, I believe H.R. 8265 would pass easily. It would also have support in the Senate. Yet Speaker Pelosi refuses to put it to a vote, so I signed a discharge petition to bypass her and bring it to the floor.
The pandemic has gone on for months, and our priorities in responding to it should be clear. It is unfortunate that House Democratic leaders have chosen to pursue other priorities.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.