Freedom Caucus chair calls for GOP to reject additional funds for state, local governments
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) is calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to push back on calls to provide additional funding for state and local economies in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
In a letter sent to McCarthy on Friday, Biggs argued that many leaders of state and local governments have mishandled efforts to deem certain businesses as nonessential amid the coronavirus crisis and have infringed on individuals’ constitutional rights.
“In negotiations for additional federal funding, I urge you to refrain from providing additional funds to state and local governments that have shut down their economies. Governors and mayors across the country have inappropriately picked winners and losers by deeming certain businesses essential, while shutting down others,” he wrote.
“In our nation and under our Constitution, these decisions are left to the free market. Restaurants, churches, grocery stores, florists, gyms, and any other business should have been given the opportunity to establish safe social distancing policies and remain open,” he wrote.
“Instead, aggressive political leaders have violated the rights of all Americans, dictating what businesses can operate, whether individuals can practice their faith, who can walk outside, and who can go to work,” he added.
Biggs — who is a strong proponent of immediately reopening the economy and was recently named to President Trump’s bipartisan task force focused on reopening the country — said be believes states’ decisions to shutter thousands of businesses have influenced the increase in unemployment numbers and therefore shouldn’t receive additional federal funds.
“As a result, more than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs and the economy has come to a screeching halt. State and local governments who should be taking responsibility for these decisions immediately turned to the federal government for assistance,” he wrote in the letter.
“And now, the same ones who obstinately refuse to reopen, even on a limited scale, are begging for additional support,” he added.
The Arizona Republican went on to note the effect the coronavirus relief bills passed by Congress have had on the nation’s deficit, arguing that providing additional funding for state and local governments would set a bad precedent.
“Our structural deficit this year will exceed $4 trillion. By the end of the fiscal year our debt will exceed the size of our economy. We are on an unsustainable path. We cannot afford to backfill the poor decisions of state and local officials. It is time to reopen America and it must begin with state and local leaders,” he wrote.
“As negotiations continue, please do not entrench the bad precedent for the federal government to pay the tab for state and local actions. I look forward to working with you and rebuilding our economy to its former brilliance,” he continued.
The letter comes as parties remain at an impasse over a fourth coronavirus stimulus bill, with top Democrats pushing for provisions to provide additional money for hospitals, states and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as providing more federal dollars to help keep small businesses afloat.
Top Republicans, meanwhile, have advocated for only providing additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and have expressed reluctance to tacking on provisions related to SNAP. The PPP provides loans and grants to small businesses struggling with the financial fallout caused by the virus and its funding recently dried up.
Still, McCarthy told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that he is open to providing more funding for hospitals in addition to another $250 billion for the PPP.
Biggs said that with proper precautions he believes parts of the country that haven’t been heavily affected by the deadly virus could safely begin to reopen.
“We now have a huge structural deficit, we’ve really exacerbated our national debt issue and we’ve put 22 million-plus people out of work. I mean, come on, it’s time to open this thing up and trust the American people,” he told The Hill in an interview.
“I trust the American people, I think that they will get it, they will I think they will try everything they can to avoid passing this disease on, and I think what’ll happen is, is you’ll see that, that we are a much more mature people than some of the draconian authoritarian leaders think we are,” he said.