Various polls show President Biden’s American Rescue Plan has bipartisan support among the public. For example, a national Quinnipiac poll found seven out of 10 Americans support the $1.9 trillion package. Yet, Representative Rob Wittman voted against the bill along with all of his Republican colleagues.
“One reason the measure didn’t receive Republican support is because Republicans weren’t involved in putting the plan together,” Congressman Rob Wittman explained.
The previous four plans were passed on a bipartisan basis because Republicans were involved. In this case, Republicans were not involved, in any way, shape, or form. “We offered multiple amendments. Every single one of them was rejected. There was no effort to make this bipartisan,” Wittman said.
However, his opposition is rooted in more than the battle of them-versus-us that’s plaguing Washington.
Wittman admits “there were some good elements” in The American Rescue Plan.
“Listen, for helping individuals, we need to do that. For helping businesses with the PPP, we need to do that. And that’s the kind of targeted relief I’m fully in favor of,” he said.
But Wittman believes the latest relief package is bloated with misguided elements, such as $350 billion for state bailouts, “despite the fact that most states collected about the same amount of revenue during the pandemic, with some collecting even more.”
Wittman is opposed because despite projections for 3.7 percent economic growth, the legislation provides a third round of stimulus checks costing approximately $400 billion, and that assistance will include households that experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.
Furthermore, the package expands what he views as expensive and ineffective health coverage policies that further disincentivize work. There are multiple issues surrounding funding that raise pro-life concerns, and illegal immigrants are eligible for some benefits included in the package.
“Then, there’s the massive amounts of spending completely unrelated to COVID-19,” Wittman explained.
He pointed to hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to the Endowment for the National Humanities and millions of dollars allocated for the National Endowment of the Arts.
“That has nothing whatsoever to do with COVID-19,” said Wittman.
The American Rescue Plan also codifies numerous partisan priorities, including duplicative rental assistance to funnel money toward non-COVID purposes, and it restarts “the ineffective Obama-era State Small Business Credit Initiative,” a federal program designed to support private financing for small businesses and small manufacturers.
“And folks say, what about schools? Well, my wife is a school teacher. And there’s money already in the pipeline for schools,” he explained.
Nearly all of the $68 billion obligated to K-12 schools remains available from previous relief packages to support reopening schools and could be utilized immediately, according to Wittman. Now, the latest package authorizes approximately $130 billion to schools, but does so without any guarantee that schools provide the option of in-person instruction.
Furthermore, only 5 percent of the money allocated for schools in the most recent COVID-19 relief package will go to education in 2021. The vast majority, 95 percent, doesn’t occur until 2022 and beyond, he added.
“Much of this money [in The American Rescue Plan] is long-term spending efforts that have significant amounts of time associated with them. And if you begin that spending, it’s very difficult to say, this was for COVID-19, now let’s get back to a more realistic area of spending,” said Wittman.
In total, less than 9 percent of this latest relief package will be spent on combating COVID-19 through public health spending, such as national vaccination program tracking and testing, according to Wittman.
And there’s still over $1 trillion left unspent from other bills. “So, with all of the ancillary, unrelated spending that was in this bill, this was just not a place for that,” he said, pointing out that “even President Biden said it’s the most progressive bill in the history of the nation.”
Wittman believes that instead of focusing solely on direct COVID relief and reopening schools, the Democrats’ massive stimulus legislation fulfills their political priorities at the cost of risking the nation’s fiscal stability, making it harder for the economy to recover from COVID.
“Again, it’s one of those issues where we had an opportunity to do a bipartisan, targeted relief package and unfortunately this just didn’t accomplish that,” he said.