The COVID-19 stimulus package is more than 5,000 pages long. It contains stimulus checks up to $600 for many Americans, and assists small businesses and renters. It also contains provisions tangentially related to COVID-19, including things like funding two new Smithsonian museums and tax breaks for NASCAR racing.
Wisconsin’s congressional delegation was split neatly on partisan lines. All six Wisconsin Republicans voted against the bill, while all four Wisconsin Democrats voted for it.
WORT reached out today to each US Representative and Senators, and sleuthed their public statements, to find out why they voted the way they did.
Starting off with Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who has had the national spotlight for his battle against the Covid relief bills. Last week, Johnson made headlines for blocking an effort to pass a second round of relief bills that would have included up to $1,200 in direct payments to some.
In a press statement, Johnson called the bill passed Monday monstrous. He’s focused his concern on the national debt, saying that the United States does not have an unlimited checking account and that the bill will increase the debt to $29 trillion.
The rest of the GOP side of Wisconsin’s delegation have voiced similar concerns. Tom Tiffany represents the 7th District, which covers Northern Wisconsin Speaking to WORT today, Tiffany echoed Johnson’s description of the bill as a monstrosity. Tiffany called the budgeting process in Washington broken and compared the time congress got to review the bill with when he worked on the Wisconsin state budget committee.
“We would take months to go through a budget like this,” said Tiffany, “to make sure that we get it right, that it was balanced, that it reflected the values of the people of the state of Wisconsin. That does not happen out in Washington.”
Speaking to WORT, Republican US Rep Glenn Grothman, representing central Wisconsin towns like Portage and Fond du Lac, says the bill is incredibly fiscally irresponsible. He criticized what he called government giveaway programs in the bill and the short time frame congress was given to read it
“They put together a 5,000 page bill and giving us less than 24 hours to read it, that’s kind of ridiculous in its own right,” said Grothman.
On Facebook, Representative Bryan Steil, representing southeastern Wisconsin, called Congress broken and dysfunctional in regards to the bill. He criticized the six hours representatives were given to read the bill, adding “The bill is far too broad and falls short of providing targeted relief to those who are struggling.”
In a statement to WORT, Republican Mike Gallagher said “the President would be wise to veto the legislation and force Congress to get back to work on a package that responsibly funds the government and delivers targeted Coronavirus relief to the American people.“
Outgoing Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, who will be replaced by former state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald come January, did not return a request for comment and released no press statements or posts on social media.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Democratic delegation voiced relief in the passage of the bill, but say it is not enough.
Democrat Congressman Marc Pocan, representing Dane County and much of southwestern Wisconsin, voted yes. But in a tweet on Monday, Pocan said the relief bill does not go far enough to support Americans during the pandemic.
Today’s relief package has direct payments & expanded unemployment, but it’s not enough for the crisis American families are facing.
Once Joe Biden enters office, our top priority must be a sweeping relief package that matches the scale of this crisis—no more @GOP half measures.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 22, 2020
Pocan has also criticized the amount of spending in other parts of the bill. In another tweet on Tuesday, he said “every person in America could have received a $1200 check for less than 55% of the Pentagon’s 740,000,000,000 budget.”
In a statement, Democrat Congresswoman Gwen Moore, representing Milwaukee, expressed a similar hope for additional legislation for individuals, businesses, and communities. Meanwhile, Democrat Congressman Ron Kind, representing west Wisconsin, said he was happy to finally see bipartisan support across Congress for the bill, but said the process was painful and relief was long overdue.
And in a statement, Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin says the job of responding to the pandemic is not done, writing “in January, we need to come back and start working together with the Biden Administration to provide federal support to Wisconsin.”
While the bill has passed Congress, President Trump is threatening to not sign the bill. In a video address to twitter, the President denounced the bill for including what he called a disgrace in its spending, listing examples such as funding in foreign aid and government institutions like the Smithsonian. He’s given an ultimatum to Congress to decrease the bills spending and increase the relief.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple,” said Trump.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
Some Wisconsin representatives have already spoken about Trump’s proposal, such as Congressman Mark Pocan’s statement on Twitter.
Seems like @senatemajldr is now the only roadblock to getting the American people $2,000 checks.
Let’s do this. https://t.co/nZkNJuS1jW
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 23, 2020
Congressman Tom Tiffany said he would support the $2,000 amendment, but only if it were offset by decreases in spending.
“We are putting our children deeper and deeper in debt with this spending,” said Tiffany.
And Congressman Grothman does not support the amendment, doubting it will pass
House Democrats are bringing forward an amendment on Thursday night to change the relief checks to $2,000. But it will need to pass by unanimous consent – if one Republican present votes no, the bill will fail.