Wenstrup Stands Up for Taxpayers; Votes Against $1.9 Trillion Partisan Spending Bill
Washington, March 10, 2021
WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) delivered the following remarks ahead of voting against the $1.9 trillion partisan spending bill:
I rise today to oppose this solely Democrat Payoff spending bill.
I would agree with my colleagues — it's historic. And, I would agree with my colleagues — it's consequential. There is no doubt about it. And, I'm sure with $1.9 trillion, somebody will be helped. I'm quite sure of that. But the next generation of Americans is not going to be thankful.
Let’s be honest with the American people: this is not a COVID relief bill. Members of this body came together four times last Congress and passed legislation that actually provided relief to our constituents. This bill is so incredibly far away from that as Republicans have been completely frozen out of this process.
Mr. Speaker, what’s the result?
• Only nine percent goes toward defeating the virus.
• $1.5 billion for Amtrack, which is already sitting on a billion dollars in unspent aid. Maybe riding Amtrack is a good place to socially distance? Maybe that's the reason.
• $50 million for environmental justice grants, Mr. Speaker. That doesn't educate our children.
• Roughly a trillion dollars on other liberal pet projects when we have one trillion from the previous bipartisan bills that has been left unspent.
Can someone explain what that has to do with COVID relief? Anybody?
Only nine percent of the bill is for COVID relief.
If members are serious about addressing the medical and economic challenges our country faces, like getting businesses open, getting our students back to school, and getting vaccines to Americans who want them, I’ll work with anyone in this body to do so. And, you know Republicans will, because we did several times until Democrats ignored us this Congress.
But please, let’s not pretend this bill is about COVID relief. That simply is not true.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back.
He also wrote the following opinion piece in the Washington Examiner today:
The real problem with Democrats' 'COVID relief' bill
Last week, after getting criticized in their home districts, Democrats finally announced plans to scrap two major pet projects from their so-called "COVID-19 relief" bill, a $1.9 trillion piece of legislation mostly consisting of provisions not directly related to public health spending.
These scrapped projects, which Democrats voted for and passed in the House already, included hundreds of millions in funding for a bridge in New York and a tunnel in San Francisco, coincidentally not far from where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer call home. This episode is emblematic of the overarching problems with this current COVID-19 spending bill: Not only is it completely partisan, it also contains billions in wasteful spending that does not support reopening the economy, returning teachers and children safely to school, or providing vaccines to everyone who wants one.
There is bipartisan support for direct relief. Last year, Congress and the Trump administration struck deals on four separate occasions to deliver bipartisan relief amid the global pandemic. The Democrats’ current bill is neither direct nor relief. Instead, Democratic leaders are using the first recovery package under their leadership as a partisan vehicle to ram through their long-standing ideological priorities, often unrelated to the relief that so many families, small businesses, and communities have been urgently requesting. After all, it was former Obama confidant Rahm Emanuel who infamously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Addressing this crisis should not be treated as a political opportunity. It's a public obligation.
The truth is in the numbers: 91% of the original bill that House Democrats passed in the dead of night last week does not even deal with public health. Only 9% goes toward directly defeating the virus. The GOP Doctors Caucus, which I co-chair, put forward nine different amendments to provide support for everything from getting people back to work to getting children safely back to schools to getting people vaccinated. Every single one was voted down on a party line. Instead, we see an additional $1.5 billion for Amtrak, which is already sitting on roughly $1 billion of unspent aid. It allocates $50 million for Environmental Protection Agency "environmental justice grants." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The "COVID-19 relief" bill aside, the bigger problem is that our country is at a critical point in our fight against this virus. We don’t have time for the majority party to prioritize partisan wish lists when we have a pandemic to defeat. In total, approximately $1 trillion from previous bipartisan packages is still unspent and could be repurposed for urgent needs. Instead, Democrats seem to want to profit off people’s pain and use this moment to ram through unrelated progressive priorities. Funding fiscal failures, without reform, does not "rescue" anyone from a deadly virus.
We don’t have time for this because our economy needs to be rebuilt. Our rhythms of daily life need to be restored. Our children’s futures need to be reclaimed. Right now, we should be investing in the tangible reasons we have for hope, not stoking further fear or deepening the political divide. In just over six weeks, new infections have fallen nearly 70% nationwide. More than 78 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country. For perspective, that means more people have now received at least one dose than have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. At this critical moment, our resources should be directed toward continuing to manufacture, distribute, administer, and track COVID-19 vaccines, as well as to target assistance for the most vulnerable and hard-hit.
We also don’t have time for this because our collective health is suffering — especially our children’s mental health. The damage that this extended isolation is doing to our children is a crisis in its own right. I’ve spoken personally to parents from across the country, and the stories are painful. Aside from plummeting grades, our children are struggling with depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, and even suicide. Through most of 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits, for reasons such as panic and anxiety, spiked for young people. Cases were up by 24% for young children and 31% for adolescents, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, Democrats’ solution to all of these issues is a $1.9 trillion bill that heaps money onto school districts with no requirements to reopen and pays people not to work, all while prioritizing their political leaders’ pet projects. This is not just “politics as usual.” This is just wrong.
People deserve better — for their health, for their children, and for their futures.