Toomey rips Dem coronavirus bill’s racial justice provisions for farmers: ‘A partisan, left-wing wish list’
Sen. Pat Toomey tore into President Biden’s massive coronavirus relief bill as a partisan wish list, railing against a long-list of provisions in the nearly $2 trillion measure that he said have nothing to do with the pandemic or subsequent economic recession.
“There is no justification for this bill. There’s no medical justification, there’s pandemic justification, there’s no economic justification,” Toomey, R-Pa., said in a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor. “This isn’t about coming together and doing something about a crisis. This is about a partisan, left-wing wish list.”
Among the specific funding measures identified by Toomey were the $200 million set aside for The Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency that provides grants to libraries and museums, and the $270 million allocated for the National Endowment of the Arts and the Humanities, an institute that had a budget of $253 million in fiscal year 2019.
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“Oh, that’s COVID related, thank goodness that’s there,” Toomey said sarcastically.
The Pennsylvania Republican also highlighted the inclusion of $91 million for outreach to student loan borrowers — “I don’t even know what that means,” he said — and the nearly $5 billion set aside for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Introduced by Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., the $5 billion Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, which would be part of the stimulus bill, would provide direct payments to Black, Hispanic and indigenous farmers. It also includes $1 billion to address systemic racism at the U.S. Agriculture Department and provide legal assistance to farmers of color.
“I say ‘about $4 billion’ because it says ‘such funds as may be necessary,'” Toomey said .”And here’s what the money is for: It’s going to pay off 120% of the debt of these farmers and ranchers.”
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Toomey and other deficit-weary Republicans have criticized the size and scope of the $1.9 trillion legislation, arguing the aid should be better targeted to those who need it the most and slamming Democrats for including provisions unrelated to the pandemic.
The nation’s deficit totaled a record $3.1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, and the national debt is on track to hit $28 trillion.
But Democrats have defended the massive spending proposal, arguing the economy is still a far way from its pre-crisis level, with unemployment officially at 6.3%. There are about 10 million more out-of-work Americans than there were a year ago in February, before the crisis began.
The relief measure also includes a third $1,400 stimulus check for Americans earning less than $75,000, increases supplemental unemployment benefits by $400 a week through the end of August, allocates $50 billion toward helping small businesses and gives $350 billion for state and local governments, among other provisions.
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Congressional Democrats are planning to use a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill without any Republican buy-ins, with the goal of sending the legislation to Biden’s desk before a March 14 jobless aid cliff.