By Marco Rubio
Over the past 12 months, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to pass nearly $4 trillion in emergency coronavirus fiscal relief through five separate bills. While tens of billions of dollars remain unspent, there is broad bipartisan support for additional relief for families, small businesses, and vaccine distribution.
But rather than working with Republicans — something two-thirds of Americans say they want — Democrats are doubling down on the Obama-era mantra that “[y]ou never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” President Biden and Congressional Democrats are hijacking the sixth COVID package and using it as a Trojan horse to begin a radical restructuring of the nation.
I cannot and will not support such an irresponsible bill.
Fails to Reopen Schools
Florida schools have been open for in-person learning the entire school year. Our experience tracks with what public health officials and pediatric disease experts are now saying: kids need to be in school, and it can be done safely.
As I noted in a FoxNews op-ed last month, tens of millions of American children have not stepped inside a physical classroom in nearly a year. The damage to our students’ futures has been catastrophic. Isolation, depression and learning loss are widespread.
The Biden Administration will say this legislation is needed to reopen schools, but that is misleading at best. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that only $6 billion out of the bill’s $128 billion dollars in education funding would go to schools over the next seven months.
What is the rest of the money for? How will it get our kids back in the classroom?
Democrats have no answer. They also have no answer for why more than $60 billion in unspent K-12 education funding from previous COVID bills is insufficient. The truth is, this partisan bill is not about getting our kids back into physical classrooms. It’s about paying off a powerful political constituency: teachers unions.
It is unconscionable that the Biden Administration continues to cave to teachers unions, ignoring science and hurting our kids as a result.
Uses Small Business Programs as Liberal Slush Funds
Eleven months ago, the Small Business Administration (SBA) made the first ever Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. The unprecedented forgivable loan program became what former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin called “the single most effective fiscal policy ever undertaken by the United States Government.”
In 2020, the PPP helped to support up to 55 million jobs, including more than 3 million in Florida. It became “one of the most significant financial supports for minority-owned businesses ever created.” Even the left-of-center Brookings Institution said the PPP “substantially increased the employment, financial health, and survival of small businesses during the COVID-19 lockdowns of April and May and as the economy began reopening in June.”
But rather than keep the PPP focused on small businesses still struggling under the pressure of state lockdowns, the Democrats’ bill expands eligibility to a wide variety of liberal special interest groups, including Planned Parenthood and organizations like big labor unions and well-funded liberal NGOs.
How is this helping small businesses stay open? How is this helping employees stay on payroll?
Again, Democrats have no answer because they now appear more interested in using federal tax dollars to build the infrastructure of progressive groups than helping our nation’s smallest businesses and their employees.
Turns the Middle-Class Child Tax Credit into Welfare
In 2017, Republicans came together to double the size of the child tax credit. The impact on American families was real. America’s working-class families were the primary beneficiaries. And thanks to the expansion, middle-class families received the largest tax cuts of any income group. Families making less than $20,000 in income also saw their child benefits increase by nearly 250 percent.
The Democrats’ bill turns the child tax credit into a new welfare program that would give monthly cash payments to parents, totaling up to $3,600 per child — even if they are already receiving welfare or if no one in the household is working. Their plan would also hand out new subsidies for daycare, effectively punishing households where a parent, grandparent, or other relative stays home to care for the kids.
As I explained in National Review last month, this is not pro-family policy, no matter how much Democrats will claim it to be.
The corrosive effect of cash payments with no strings attached was once widely accepted. In 1988, then-Senator Biden expressed concern that the “welfare system has broken down” because “it only parcels out welfare checks and does nothing to help the poor find productive jobs.”
Biden’s goal is to enact a permanent anti-work, anti-family new entitlement.
There is a better way, which is why I will offer an amendment with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) to expand the existing child tax credit to $3,500 per child and $4,500 per child under the age of six. This would provide an even larger credit to families than Biden’s plan, but also maintain the vital connection to work.
Destroys Connection to Work
The child tax credit is a pro-work, pro-family policy with a long history of bipartisan support. Replacing it with a no-strings-attached government check is bad enough, but Democrats’ expansion of long-term unemployment benefits threatens to keep even more people out of the labor market.
Long-term unemployment after the 2008 financial crisis hampered America’s economic recovery and resulted in a lost decade for millions. It was one of the reasons we created the Paycheck Protection Program — to help keep employees connected to the workforce so they were well-positioned when the economy began to reopen.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats’ new long-term unemployment provisions “could increase the unemployment rate as well as decrease labor force participation.”
There is no doubt that people need help, and I have been committed to helping those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. However, everything we do should be focused on getting people back to work, not prolonging their time unemployed.
As we look forward to robust economic growth estimates, it is reckless and irresponsible to double down on failed policies that will almost certainly result in more long-term unemployment.
Funds Ridiculous Pet Projects
Most Americans are numb to the amount of waste in massive spending bills, but that does not make it any less concerning. More pet projects will become known as the public has time to review the bill, but several jump out right off the bat.
First, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appears to have included more than $100 million for an underground rail project in Silicon Valley. The project is already approximately $2 billion over budget and isn’t expected to be completed until 2030.
Second, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) appears to have included $1.5 million for “maintenance and capital infrastructure activities” for the Seaway International Bridge, which connects New York to Canada.
How are slush funds for Big Tech’s subway construction or Schumer’s bridge to Canada going to help open schools or get shots in arms?
A Real Path Forward
To be clear, I am not opposed to additional coronavirus relief; I supported all five COVID relief bills to date. But we need to do it in a way that targets immediate needs — like temporary assistance to impacted Americans and money for vaccine distribution — and begins to focus on long-term rebuilding that creates jobs for Americans and makes us less vulnerable to future pandemics, as I outlined in a Newsweek op-ed last month.
One way we can do that is by creating meaningful incentives to bring back supply chains to areas of the country once home to thriving manufacturing industries, like Puerto Rico. This week, I will push for my Medical Manufacturing, Economic Development and Sustainability (MMEDS) Act, which I introduced with Representative Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), to be included in the bill.
I have warned about the vulnerability of our supply chain since long before the coronavirus. The ensuing pandemic and subsequent shortages in masks, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals made it clear we need to take action.
The American people have repeatedly signaled that they want a bipartisan response to the ongoing pandemic. President Trump did it, and President Biden campaigned on it.
Unfortunately, President Biden and Congressional Democrats are now showing their true colors — they do not care about “restoring the soul of America” or any of the Biden campaign’s misleading messages. Instead, they intend to use this crisis to pursue their radical, pro-welfare, pro-woke nonsense.
I will offer multiple amendments this week to make this partisan boondoggle better for the American people. But I’m keeping my expectations realistic. Democrats will likely block every single common-sense amendment to reopen schools, rebuild our pharmaceutical production, and save and expand the child tax credit. And even if some amendments are adopted, Chuck Schumer will likely use a legislative tactic to remove bipartisan, common-sense amendments as he did last month on the Budget Resolution.
At the exact moment when our country should be turning a new page to a stronger, post-COVID future, Democrats prefer a plan that empowers teachers unions and other special interests, recreates a failed welfare system, and keeps Americans detached from the workforce for the foreseeable future.