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Alabama delegation reacts to new Pelosi relief bill

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

Republican members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation are none too pleased with a new coronavirus relief bill pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with some calling the $3 trillion plan “liberal la la land” and a “socialist wish list” that won’t pass the Senate.

Pelosi has said she wants a vote Friday on the package that includes more than $900 billion to states and local governments, a second round of $1,200 checks to individuals and up to $6,000 per household, a $200 billion hazard pay fund for essential workers, health insurance subsidies for laid off workers, $175 billion for rent and mortgage assistance, $25 billion to boost the U.S. Postal Service and an extension of $600-a-week supplemental unemployment benefits.

“It’s nothing but a socialist wish list that has no chance of passing the Senate, so it’s an incredible waste of time,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, who represents east Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

He said he was disappointed Republicans had no input in the bill.

“This really gets in the way of and delays our ability to pass something real to get people relief,” Rogers said. “We’ve got people around the country scared, getting sick and dying, wondering how to feed their families. But instead of working together as we did on the last bills, we are going through this exercise.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, was quick to denounce the bill on Twitter, calling it “Liberal La La Land.”

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“This multi-trillion dollar monstrosity was dreamed up behind closed doors with zero bipartisan input,” Aderholt said. “In the last two months, Congress has passed three economic relief packages with a great deal of bipartisan support. These bills weren’t perfect, but they were necessary to combat COVID-19. We knew we needed to work together, and we did.

“Unfortunately, the Phase 4 stimulus has gone in a different direction. Speaker Pelosi has chosen to use this moment to write a wish list of liberal policies meant to divide the country, as not a single Republican was involved in developing this bill.”

Alabama’s lone Democrat in the House, Rep. Terri Sewell of Selma, said Americans are in need of another broad relief bill and she was involved in crafting Pelosi’s plan. She said she is particularly supportive of funds for testing, treatment and relief funds for local cities and counties.

In the CARES Act, passed in March, only municipalities with a population greater than 500,000 were eligible for direct funds from Congress, meaning only Jefferson County qualified. Any other local funds would need to be dispersed from the state’s nearly $1.8 billion share.

“Alabama’s legislators have not yet prioritized providing assistance to local towns, cities and counties who also have services that have been disrupted,” Sewell said. “Local services are essential services, and it would be a travesty if they were left unfunded.”

Rep. Mo Brooks, the conservative firebrand from Alabama’s northern 5th District, took aim at the bill’s $3 trillion price tag and the impact it would have on the already high national debt.

“America’s national debt blew through $23 trillion in November, $24 trillion in April, and $25 trillion in May,” Brooks said. “According to the Congressional Budget Office, America’s 2020 federal budget deficit is projected to be $3.7 trillion— that’s without this $3+ trillion monstrosity. The federal government set a new record in April for the largest ever monthly deficit increase at $738 billion. Both the CBO and America’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro regularly describe America’s financial state as ‘unsustainable,’ accounting language that says an insolvency and bankruptcy will result absent corrective measures.”

A spokeswoman for Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Birmingham, said the congressman was against the bill on grounds that such a steep price tag may force the country to reduce military spending and weaken national security.

State House “wish list”

There was bi-partisan criticism for how the state of Alabama is handling the infusion of nearly $1.8 billion from the CARES Act. State lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey have been in a public disagreement over who should be in charge of dispersing the funds, which came to a head last week when Alabama Daily News reported a preliminary “wish list” from top legislative leaders that included some non-outbreak related projects, including $200 million for a new State House.

Sewell was critical of state lawmakers saying the funding authorized by Congress in March is intended to address the current emergency, not “pet projects” like a new State House.

“I hope they will rescind that wish list and will go back to the drawing board and try to provide projects that will address the here and now, the crisis that is here and now,” she said. “I clearly did not mean for that money to go for some Taj Mahal for our state legislators.”

Rogers was also critical of the State House idea.

“When I was in the Legislature, we had some smart people, but also some knuckleheads with some ideas they should have kept in their head and not their mouths, and that’s what happened here,” he said. “There was no doubt that you couldn’t spend any of that money building a new building. In fact, it was all meant to replace costs that went to fight COVID-19.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that legislative leadership said a new building is no longer being considered as a possible relief funds expenditure.

“We now have guidance that makes it clear that the funds could not be used to build a new State House. It should also be made clear that this list represented the first draft of potential uses for these funds as a starting point for discussion,” Marsh spokesman Will Califf said in a statement.

Rogers said it was unlikely that Congress changes the rules for the CARES Act to cover expenses like expanding rural broadband internet, as Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh wants to do, but that there is bipartisan talk of additional legislation to allow that.

“For things like broadband, it’s going to take another bill,” Rogers said. “Having said that, there has been a lot of talk on our conference calls about getting some relief for broadband. That’s one of the things we could really get done and it would be bi-partisan.”

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