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Joni Ernst: The Democrats’ “COVID Relief” Bill is Partisan, Pricey, and Full of Pet Projects

It’s no secret that the worst global pandemic in a generation has brought unforeseen challenges and hardships. But it’s often during these challenging times when the American people band together, and we’ve seen it: folks across Iowa have risen to the occasion to help out their friends, family members, neighbors, and communities. We’ve also seen it in our government. Even in increasingly partisan times, state legislatures—and even Congress—have worked across party lines to provide relief to those who need it.

I’ve been proud to work with Democrats and Republicans to pass five overwhelmingly bipartisan packages to support Iowans, and all Americans. And last week, I was ready to do it again.

Unfortunately, my friends across the aisle had a different idea.

Ignoring President Biden’s call for unity, Democrats—led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer—shut out myself and my Republican colleagues and instead focused on fast-tracking their highly partisan, nearly $2 trillion “COVID relief bill” through Congress. Despite what they’re calling the legislation, this package is full of spending that has absolutely nothing to do with addressing the immediate needs of COVID-19.

Hardworking Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for Speaker Pelosi’s and Senator Schumer’s wish list of long-time liberal priorities. That’s why I worked to shed light on the extraneous provisions in the bill—and we had some success. After bringing attention to the $1.5 million of taxpayer dollars set aside for building a bridge from the state of New York to Canada, this partisan pet project was struck from the bill. We also exposed—and stopped—a cleverly-worded provision that earmarked $140 million for a subway in California’s Silicon Valley. What do these projects have to do with COVID? The answer is nothing.

Sadly, there is plenty of additional pork in this bill. There’s still a whopping $350 billion bailout of “blue” states that the Democrats crafted to reward states with mismanaged budgets and bad past behavior. The biggest winners include New York and California. 

What else is in this mammoth package? A loophole that allows millionaires, yes millionaires, to take advantage of a program intended to help make quality child care affordable for working parents who are struggling to make ends meet. And then there’s millions for so-called “environmental justice grants.” Instead, this money could be better used on things like broadband for schools that have needed additional help with connectivity during COVID-19. Unfortunately, with just nine percent of this bill actually going to COVID health spending, these are just a few examples—the liberal wish list is long. 

I fully understand that there are still needs that must be addressed across the country. But instead of bridges and bailouts and money to millionaires, this package should be focused on immediate help to get folks back to work, kids in school, and vaccines in Iowans’ and all Americans’ arms.

The money Democrats want to spend isn’t monopoly money. It’s going to be paid out of the pockets of essential workers and others who are continuing to work, pay taxes, and keep America running. And of course, by my daughter and the generations to come.

As I’ve said, COVID relief should focus on COVID relief. Period. Instead, Democrats turned their back on bipartisanship for their own political interests and party priorities and shoved through their nearly $2 trillion bill without any Republican support.

Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.
Click here or on the image above for an official portrait of Senator Ernst.