Sen. Marsha Blackburn voiced her support Wednesday of a more fiscally conservative approach to tackling COVID-19 relief, a position seemingly at odds with President Donald Trump’s recent stimulus package offer of $1.8 trillion.
COVID-19 relief negotiations
Ever since the $2.2 trillion stimulus package known as the CARES Act was passed in March, negotiations on a new stimulus package have mostly reached a stalemate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed for a $2.2 trillion relief package, whereas Senate Republicans have counter offered with a $500 billion relief package, the latter of which failed in the Senate Wednesday with a vote of 51 - 44, short of the 60 votes required.
Earlier in October, Trump had voiced support for a $1.8 trillion relief package, sharing on Twitter his desire to “go big” in regards to COVID-19 relief negotiations.
As of Wednesday afternoon, representatives of the White House have expressed their desire to reach an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief package by Saturday, Oct. 24.
“Ours is a very responsible approach”
During a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Blackburn was asked about the current status of COVID-19 relief package negotiations. Blackburn used the question as an opportunity to highlight what she felt differentiated Senate Republicans’ and Senate Democrats’ approach to COVID-19 relief.
“You will hear those on the other side of the aisle say [that House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi has a plan; it’s $2 trillion, $3 trillion… ours is a very responsible approach,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn explained that the $500 billion relief package, which failed in the Senate just moments after her press conference, would have included more Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses, and would use previously unspent money from the CARES Act.
“These are the things that people are wanting to see done,” Blackburn said. “Tennesseans do not want to be bailing out these states or these cities that are going into bankruptcy, they’re wanting us to be responsible on this issue.”
While the $500 billion relief package wouldn’t have included a second round of stimulus checks, it would have allowed for small businesses to apply for a second loan through the PPP, include an additional $300 in unemployment through December 27, include $105 billion in education funds, and provide liability protections for employers and health care workers.
The House Heroes Act, which is the $2.2 trillion relief package being floated in the Senate by Pelosi, would not include additional money for small business loans or liability protections, but would include a second round of stimulus checks, an additional $600 in unemployment through Jan. 31, and $105 billion towards education.
With Pelosi voicing opposition to Republicans’ $500 billion proposal, Blackburn argued the House Speaker to be using Americans as “a bargaining chip.”
“I think it is time for Pelosi and some of the House and Senate Democratic leadership to stop using the American people who are suffering as a bargaining chip to get money to go bail out these states and cities that are facing bankruptcy,” Blackburn said.
“We have small businesses in our state that need relief today, we have people who are on unemployment because of no fault of their own, and they need that plus-up in unemployment.”
The Home Page asked Blackburn what her thoughts were regarding Trump’s $1.8 trillion relief package offer, a proposal more than 3.5 times larger than what Senate Republicans were offering.
Without commenting on Trump’s proposal directly, Blackburn reiterated the need to “be responsible” with American tax dollars, and “not add trillions of dollars to the national debt.”
“We know that businesses are needing to get relief, some of the vaccine research that is being done in Tennessee needs additional funding, the state needs additional funding for testing, there is a need for liability protection,” Blackburn said.
“These are the things that people are needing, and putting a lot of money in that bill for marijuana research, marijuana sales, bailing out states… this is not the time for those discussions. So what we’re trying to do is be fair, be focused, be responsible, be good stewards of tax dollars and deal with the crisis at hand and not add trillions of dollars to the national debt.”