Sen. Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Rep. Mark Green were among the minority 59 members of Congress to vote against the newly passed $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, which itself was attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill.
The $2.3 trillion legislative package
Passed on Monday, the legislative package was designed to both fund government operations and provide economic relief amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. At least in this iteration, the package includes $600 direct payments to most Americans, an additional $300 in unemployment benefits and additional loans to businesses.
The U.S. Senate passed the package by a 92-6 vote, with Blackburn - a resident of Brentwood - being among only six Senators to vote against the package. Senators to also vote against the package were Rick Scott (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
President Donald Trump, however, expressed his displeasure for the legislation Tuesday night and signaled he might not sign it as is. In his statement, he called for the direct payment portion of the bill to increase from $600 to $2,000 per American.
"I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill"
Blackburn took to Twitter on Tuesday to explain her reasonings for voting against the package, explaining that buried deep within the almost 6,000 page bill were provisions that she held "serious concerns" over.
"The legislation passed yesterday will support vaccine development and distribution, assist schools and universities, and provide crucial help to Tennessee small businesses - however, I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder," Blackburn wrote.
"I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments. For these reasons, I voted no on passage of this legislation."
The package does in fact make prison inmates eligible for receiving federal financial aid, a provision that reverses a previous ban outlined in the 1994 crime bill drafted and pushed by President-elect Joe Biden during his tenure in the Senate.
That crime bill, which disproportionately affected Black Americans, saw incarcerations increase by more than 400% between 1994 and 2006 before beginning a still ongoing period of steady decline.
As mentioned by Blackburn, the package also allows for U.S. citizens or green card holders who have filed a joint tax return with a noncitizen to receive the aforementioned $600 stimulus payment. The package would also backpay these individuals with the $1,200 stimulus payment approved in March.
Blackburn's concerns about expanded visas refer to the package allowing for the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor to increase the amount of H-2B visas for workers in select industries, including landscaping and construction.
This is not the first time Blackburn has pushed against stimulus spending. The Senator pushed against a $2.2 trillion relief package back in October, a position seemingly at odds with Trump's then-suggested $1.8 trillion package.
"My mother always taught me not to sign anything until I read the fine print"
The U.S. House of Representatives also voted heavily in favor of passing the legislative package with a vote of 359-53. Green, who represents Williamson County in the U.S. House, was among the 53 to vote against it.
Speaking to Fox Business on Tuesday, Green said that he was supportive of stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits, but it was what he called "liberal government handouts" that led him to vote against the package.
"The sheer fact that it was 5,593 pages handed to us with five hours and 45 minutes to read it before we had to vote on it, that principle alone was enough to vote no on it," Green said.
"Then you look at all the spending... we're a nation that is deeply in debt, and to take the coronavirus and say why don't we spend millions of dollars?
"Billions of dollars to green energy? A billion dollars to foreign governments? Ten billion to bail out the postal service? It seems to me the Democrats got a lot of what they wanted and the Republicans didn't."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a televised interview that direct payments could arrive in Americans' bank account as early as next week.