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From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters

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More than 1.7 million American citizens, including an estimated 43,000 in Arizona; 35,000 in Colorado; 249,000 in Texas; and 88,000 in Florida, were prohibited from receiving their $1,200 stimulus check this spring. Why? Solely because of whom they married.

Under the CARES Act, and at Republican insistence, U.S. citizens married to foreign nationals without a valid social security number were not eligible for the federal coronavirus relief. This edict also applied to their citizen children. Preventing U.S. citizens and their children from accessing essential relief during a pandemic is morally wrong, economically harmful and politically foolish.

As emphasized by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a recent Zoom town hall with the bipartisan American Business Immigration Coalition, it is not only immoral to deny U.S. citizens and their children the same critical financial assistance provided to other citizens, it is unconstitutional. “If you can vote and you can fight for your country, then that should also entitle you to the same rights and obligations that citizens writ large have,” said the senator. As a lifelong Republican voter and donor, I cannot agree more, especially when the only alternative for those citizens left behind would be divorcing their spouse. That would be an absurd ask from the party that prides itself on promoting family values.

Additionally, the marriage penalty is economically devastating, especially for the states hit the hardest by COVID-19. In Arizona alone, correcting this injustice would immediately inject more than $51 million into the local economy (and an estimated $36 million in Colorado; $97 million in Florida; $37 million in North Carolina; and $349 million in Texas.)

But, if the moral and economic concerns are not reason enough, the political implications for the Republican party are significant. Not only is the GOP making the affirmative decision to deny an important relief to large numbers of U.S. citizens – and voters – in politically impactful states, this policy offends the basic sense of fairness to all Americans. For Republicans to alienate such a large block of American voters makes zero sense, and will undoubtedly be reflected at the polls for those facing re-election this November.

As we experience a new surge of coronavirus cases in states across our country, it is time for Republican senators to do the right thing – especially those representing key battleground states. Senators like John Cornyn (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Kelly Loefler (R-Ga.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) need to follow the lead of their colleagues Sens. Rubio, Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) to demand that Congress eliminate the marriage penalty included in the CARES Act.

For the sake of our nation, American families, and small businesses, we urge our Republican senators to heed our calls for every citizen to be treated equally, regardless of whom they married. Our future depends on it.

William Kunkler, III is an executive in private equity in Chicago and a co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition.

Tags Bill Cassidy Coronavirus Cory Gardner John Cornyn Marco Rubio Martha McSally Mitt Romney Steve Daines Stimulus Susan Collins Thom Tillis

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