Congress’s 5,593-page porky ‘relief’ bill is essence of the swamp
The $900 billion stimulus package COVID-19 “relief” bill is exactly what one would expect from a dysfunctional, tone-deaf Congress: a pork-filled cluster filled with anything and everything that has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic or relief.
And in the swampiest thing ever, the bill, which is combined with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill, is 5,593 pages long, or 5,583 pages too many, was given to lawmakers six hours before a vote to review what exactly is in it (hint: more pork than a Tyson Foods plant).
It harkens back to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once explaining that a bill needed to be passed in order to find out what was in it. In a related story, our government is broken.
The top-line from the bill says a mere $600 per adult and $600 per child goes to those eligible, which is half of what adults received in another relief package passed earlier this year (the per-child payment was $500). Not hard to see that this amount is hardly enough to keep those struggling from staying out of poverty.
So where is the rest of the $1.4 trillion going?
Glad you asked.
Exhibit A: “Of the funds appropriated under title III of the Act that are made available for assistance for Pakistan, not less than $15,000,000 shall be made available for democracy programs and not less than $10,000,000 shall be made available for gender programs.” Yep. $10 million. For gender programs. In Pakistan.
Exhibit B: Funds for “Resource Study of Springfield (Illinois) Race Riot.” That riot occurred in (checks notes) 1908.
Exhibit C: “Statement Of Policy Regarding The Succession Or Reincarnation Of The Dalai Lama.” We’ll just leave that one there.
Exhibit D: There’s actually a commission tasked with educating “consumers about the dangers associated with using or storing portable fuel containers for flammable liquids near an open flame.”
Exhibit E: Another $40 million will be allocated “for the necessary expenses for the operation, maintenance and security” of The Kennedy Center, which received $25 million in another COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year. Also in a related story, the Kennedy Center has been closed.
Exhibits F, G, H, I, J: $86 million for assistance to Cambodia; $130 million to Nepal, $135 million to Burma, $453 million to Ukraine, $700 million to Sudan.
Exhibit K: The bill creates a Women’s History Museum and an American Latino Museum as part of the Smithsonian. Overall, the Smithsonian gets (checks notes again) $1 billion.
You get the idea. It’s the oldest trick in Washington: Take a bill that symbolically is overwhelmingly supported by the American people on its title alone (COVID-19 relief for those struggling due to the pandemic). Then attach every pet project possible, in this case by combining it with an omnibus spending bill, and away we go.
Then there’s the gall of Pelosi, who politicized this process in stalling negotiations since the summer with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin until after the election to ensure her party’s presidential nominee got past the finish line.
“That is a total game-changer — a new president and a vaccine,” she said. “We have a new president — a president who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus.”
The kind of science that creates (checks notes once again) multiple vaccines in record time as was done under President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed?
“Congressional Democrats have reached an agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Again, using words like “emergency” and “urgently needed funds” that have been an emergency for many and urgently needed for months are the highest levels of insult.
Party power is always the goal with Pelosi. It may explain why her approval rating currently sits at 33 percent while Congress’s sits at 21 percent.
Another year, another spending bill stuffed with pork.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.
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