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2-state Congress members split down party lines on COVID relief bill

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 9:00 AM EST
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WASHINGTON (WRDW/WAGT) - Lawmakers who represent the two-state region in Congress are weighing in on the landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that was passed this week.

The House gave final congressional approval Wednesday to the sweeping package by a near party line 220-211 vote precisely seven weeks after Joe Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill.

It was a victory for Democrats.

“I say to Georgia that today is for you,” Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock said at a news conference after Wednesday’s passage.

Warnock and fellow Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff sought to include direct funding for cities, towns and counties, Ossoff’s office said in a statement.

Under the original the CARES Act, only cities with populations over 500,000 received direct federal funding from the government. In Georgia, that made Atlanta the only city to get this funding, Ossoff’s office said.

Other cities relied on the governor’s discretion to allocate funds, and many did not receive adequate funding, the office said.

Ossoff had spoken with mayors and leaders across the state who advocated the need for direct funding, and he got to work to ensure its inclusion in the bill, according to his office.

These funds can be used to replace lost revenue, maintain vital public services and protect frontline workers.

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2020, file photo Georgia Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Raphael...
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2020, file photo Georgia Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff, right, gesture toward a crowd during a campaign rally in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)(Brynn Anderson | AP)

The Georgia Municipal Association applauded the inclusion of the measure, sending a letter from over 240 Georgia local leaders representing 136 cities.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis is among those praising the measure.

“Passage of the American Rescue Plan was a day of significant progress and promise for the American people and, in particular, Augustans who desperately need economic and healthcare relief,” Davis said in a statement.

“Direct funding to cities like Augusta in the American Rescue Plan will help us jumpstart the economy, put kids safely back in school, and ensure that we defeat this virus by getting vaccines to our citizens.”

Republicans in both the House and Senate opposed the legislation, characterizing it as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the crises are easing.

Among those opponents was Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta.

“This is not a COVID-19 ‘relief’ package; it’s a progressive spending bill that directs 91 percent of the nearly $2 trillion to unrelated Democrat priorities. It’s the most liberal piece of legislation Congress has ever sent to a President’s desk and does more to help Democrat special interests than the American people,” Allen said in a statement.

“This package is jammed with partisan policies like Blue State bailouts while leaving behind states like Georgia. As Governor Brian Kemp has pointed out, the Peach State will see $1.3 billion less than previous formulas, like the CARES Act, would have allocated.”

Allen spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor on Feb. 26, when the House first passed the bill. It then went to the Senate for consideration under the budget reconciliation process, where the package was amended and passed with a simple majority.

Rep. Rick Allen
Rep. Rick Allen(WRDW)

On Wednesday, the House passed the final version, sending it to Biden for a signature making it law.

“Unlike all of the previous coronavirus relief packages that shared bipartisan support, Democrats rejected any Republican input and passed the bill along party lines,” Allen said. They wouldn’t even consider including common-sense amendments like reopening schools nationwide or preventing funds from being spent until majority of the remaining $1 trillion from previous packages is spent. ‘Relief’ shouldn’t come at the price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars of unrelated, wasteful Washington spending.”

Late last week, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott blasted the measure.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott(WRDW)

“In a made-for-television, twenty-four hour spectacle that left Capitol Hill paralyzed, Democrats rammed through a deeply partisan package that left more questions than answers. Ninety percent of this pork-filled bill is unrelated to the pandemic, less than ten percent of this bill is for COVID health care relief, and only one percent is designated for vaccines,” he said in a statement. “To make matters worse, it creates slush funds to bail out states that mismanage their finances, has no requirements to get children back in the classroom, slows down our already recovering economy, discourages people from re-entering the workforce, and even provides stimulus checks to people in prison today. Simply put, this is not a ‘COVID relief package,’ it is a Trojan Horse for the radical Left’s progressive wish list.”

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