Our nation is in the middle of a crisis we have not seen in our lifetime. As the coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, continues to impact every facet of our lives – businesses, schools, agriculture, travel and, of course, our health – Americans are looking to all levels of government for a quick response and help.
While there is more work to do, I am encouraged by the steps we have taken at the federal level to provide relief to families through two pieces of legislation related to the coronavirus, which I was proud to support.
In the first phase, known as the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, we provided nearly $8 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, State Department and small businesses to assist during these uncertain times. We also waived Medicare telehealth restrictions so seniors can heed the guidance of public health officials and stay home by scheduling a virtual visit.
In the second phase, or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, we passed measures to help small businesses, seniors and workers, including funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs such as home-delivered nutrition services for seniors. This bill also included an increase in federal medical assistance for states and a requirement for insurers to cover coronavirus tests.
For workers, there is a temporary emergency paid leave program with the possibility of a waiver for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which is currently awaiting Department of Labor guidance and is expected to be resolved soon. The bill also includes refundable tax credits to employers to cover wages paid to employees while they are taking time off under the bill’s sick leave and family leave programs. Emergency transfers to states to process and pay unemployment benefits and extended unemployment benefits were also included.
But now the fate of a vital third phase of coronavirus legislation has been commandeered by Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Democrat leadership. Over the weekend, after bipartisan negotiations, Senate Democrats blocked the legislation from even getting a vote on the Senate floor. Instead, Speaker Pelosi returned to D.C. demanding that we take up her recently unveiled legislation that seeks to exploit this crisis. Even one of her top lieutenants said that this was “an opportunity to restructure things to fit our agenda.”
Democrat leadership is trying to use this next phase of legislation as an opportunity to fund their socialist priorities. Speaker Pelosi’s proposal is riddled with radical proposals such as union giveaways, Green New Deal priorities, federalizing elections, weakening our immigration system and more.
Not only would Speaker Pelosi’s bill total $2.5 trillion, but none of these proposals also do anything to address the crisis at hand. Unfortunately, backroom deals are just business as usual for Pelosi. But the American people are looking to their government to bridge the divide and come together to get us through this crisis.
It is time we put the people ahead of partisan politics. We must urge senators on both sides of the aisle to swiftly pass legislation that meets the president’s priorities.
Congress must show the American people that in times of crisis we are not Republicans or Democrats – we are all Americans first.