Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins released the following statement after voting in opposition to the partisan $1.9 trillion spending bill. The package was narrowly approved on a strictly party-line vote of 50-49.
During the amendment process, Senator Collins introduced an alternative $650 billion package that would have provided targeted COVID-19 relief to struggling families, workers, and small businesses while saving taxpayers more than a trillion dollars. The bill also provided ample funding for vaccine manufacture and distribution and for testing.
“In the past year, Congress has taken unprecedented, bipartisan action to confront the effects of the pandemic. We passed five COVID-19 relief bills with overwhelming margins, providing $4 trillion in urgently needed relief to the American people. The most recent package, which provided $900 billion, was signed into law just over two months ago. Hundreds of billions of dollars of aid remains unspent.
“There is widespread support in Congress to pass a sixth package to increase funding for the distribution of the vaccine and to help struggling families, workers, small business owners, and health care providers. I led a group of 11 Republican Senators in proposing a targeted $650 billion bill that would have done just that. Among other provisions, our amendment would have supported rural health care providers, helped students return to their classrooms, extended unemployment assistance, sent direct $1400 checks to low- and middle-income Americans, expanded access to child care, increased resources for substance use and mental health, bolstered nutrition assistance programs, and sustained small businesses and jobs across the country.
“Regrettably, there was no interest from Democratic Leadership in negotiating a targeted, bipartisan relief package that meets the challenges at hand. Instead, Democrats chose to ram through a partisan bill using a partisan process. The only thing bipartisan about this package was the opposition in the House. Under the guise of providing COVID-19 relief, the Democratic leaders proposed a bloated $1.9 trillion package stuffed full of provisions that have nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus, from either a public health or economic perspective. The bill also picks winners and losers. For instance, rather than allocating state aid based on population size as Congress did previously, a new formula will result in a cut of $155 million for the State of Maine.
“Key economic indicators highlight how wasteful and unnecessary the excessive spending unrelated to COVID-19 is. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. economy is currently between $600 billion and $700 billion below where it should be, suggesting that a package of $650 billion is the appropriate size. That is exactly what I offered. Moreover, on February 1, the CBO projected that the U.S. economy would return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year—and that was before the arrival of a third COVID-19 vaccine and an accelerated vaccination timeline. Just this week, the Department of Labor reported that the American economy added a robust 379,000 jobs in February as states reopen and more people receive the vaccine. And one of President Obama’s former chief economic advisors warned that a stimulus package on the scale of $1.9 trillion risks triggering inflation and financial instability.
“During previous major crises, Members of Congress have been able to set aside their ideological differences, just as we did when we passed five COVID-19 relief packages last year. Our country is at its best when we come together as Americans to overcome the challenges we face. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to recover from the pandemic and address other pressing issues.”