Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion “Phase III” emergency aid package to help America recover from the coronavirus lockdown. Previous phases provided funds for testing and paid family leave.
Not one U.S. Senator voted against the legislation: 96-0. Twice during the first hour of Senate debate, two “final” versions were distributed. No one had time to read the final language.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com posted an official summary of the legislation’s supplemental $340 billion surge to emergency funding here.
The Republican majority Senate and Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced their 250-page version of this coronavirus aid relief and economic security act a week ago. It eventually became the $2 trillion, 883 page CARES Act – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (H.R.748).
Two days ago, in the ramp up to negotiations, House Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the “Take Responsibility For Workers and Family’s Act” (H.R.6379) – a $2.5 trillion, 1,404 page coronavirus response.
Our auditors dug deeply into McConnell’s Senate bill and compared it to Pelosi’s House bill. While half the nation was “sheltered in place,” here’s what lawmakers — in both parties — considered “essential spending” for coronavirus recovery:
-$25 million in the Senate bill went to the John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. During the past ten years, the center received $68.3 million in federal grants (2010-2019). The Kennedy Center has total assets of $557 million. The Pelosi bill earmarked $35 million.
-$75 million in the Senate bill funded the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. Why does National Public Radio and Big Bird get a coronavirus subsidy? The Pelosi bill allocated $300 million.
-$1.2 billion in the Pelosi bill to require airlines to purchase expensive “renewable” jet fuel. It was $200 million per year in grants (2021-2026) to “develop, transport, and store sustainable aviation fuels that would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” The Senate bill eliminated this provision.
People of good will can debate each of these goals, but is it truly emergency spending? For example, what is the public purpose for the Smithsonian Institute receiving an additional $7.5 million in this time of crisis? Both bills provided these funds.