The actions of my Democrat colleagues this week make it clear they have no intention of working with Republicans on a bipartisan COVID package. There is no other explanation for the budget resolution that was introduced this week.
We’re not considering this Budget Resolution for the usual purpose of establishing overall spending and revenue levels for the fiscal year. That has already been done. The sole purpose of this budget is to establish reconciliation instructions, whereby the majority can pass a partisan COVID package on a party line vote.
Embarking down this inherently partisan path now poisons the well for any fruitful bipartisan negotiations. And it’s completely at odds with President Biden’s call for unity and bipartisanship during the campaign and his inaugural address.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. My Republican colleagues and I stand ready to engage in bipartisan discussions to reach an agreement to provide targeted COVID relief.
A consensus package could be done very quickly, just as happened with the bipartisan CARES Act last March. The relief package Congress passed in December came together very quickly once both sides agreed to set aside partisan poison pills.
In the past year or so, we’ve been able to come together to pass around $4 trillion in COVID focused relief with strong bipartisan support. There is no reason we can’t come together for the American people once more.
Instead of wasting our time with a week-long partisan exercise, we could be working together today to forge a bipartisan compromise. If this was the course the majority were to take, I think there is much we could agree to with near universal support in short order.
Everyone recognizes we need to get control of the virus as a first priority. That’s necessary to save lives and get back to anything close to resembling a normally functioning economy.
Rapid deployment of the vaccine is our best hope to get there. I doubt a single member of this body would object to additional funds for vaccine distribution if it will get more people vaccinated sooner.
I’m also confident many on my side could agree to additional relief for individuals and small businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. We can have a discussions on unemployment assistance, rental assistance, funds for reopening schools and additional grants to small businesses to help them keep the lights on.
But any relief must be targeted and focused on the task at hand.
At $1.9 trillion the President’s proposal is far from targeted or focused. It includes permanent liberal structural economic reforms. This is about using a crisis to enact long-term Democrat policy priorities rather than addressing the immediate needs of the day.
It also includes a bailout of fiscally irresponsible states at the expense of states have managed their budgets wisely, like my home state of Iowa. That is fundamentally unfair to the taxpayers in responsibility governed states.
The President putting forward his proposal should have marked the beginning of discussions, not the end. If my Democrat colleagues would abandon this partisan exercise, bipartisan discussions could start in earnest.
This may mean you have to compromise on some priorities, but that is simply part of life around here if you want to get anything done.
The excuse that there isn’t enough time, or the need for relief so urgent, that bipartisanship must go out the window is just that, an excuse.
By following the current path, this entire week is being wasted on partisan theater with no tangible benefit for the American people.
At the end of the week, the Senate will be no closer to drafting actual relief legislation. We should instead be working together to iron out our differences to get bipartisan relief to the American people now.