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Coronavirus

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 19, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Madam President, isn't it interesting? Here we are, Christmas week, the weekend before Christmas, and we are talking about needing targeted relief. Now, the Democrats have spent their year pushing off targeted relief. They have had their opportunities to tackle this issue. They have chosen not to tackle this issue. They have chosen to play politics with this issue. So, on the Saturday before Christmas, when we should be home and visiting with our families--I would love to be home with my children and grandchildren--here we are.

I honestly have decided that my friends across the aisle must not be paying very much attention to what is going on back home because the people back home in Tennessee are very frustrated with them. They seem out of touch. They seem to not care. They don't seem to be interested in taking care of people with needs who have been adversely impacted by COVID. They seem to be more interested in taking care of themselves.

This year really did not have to end this way. As I said, our friends across the aisle could have addressed this back in the summer. In July, the minority leader and his colleagues in the House immediately rejected our HEALS Act proposal in favor of Speaker Pelosi's mega- trillion-dollar--$3 trillion--wish list that they had dubbed the ``Heroes Act.'' You know, they always give such nice sounding names to things. Who could be against this? Yet they rejected the HEALS Act proposal that was targeted-specific relief and went with the Heroes Act.

It was a very partisan bill. It contained provisions that had nothing to do with COVID relief and that the House and Senate Democrats knew were going to be stumbling blocks. Their bill was filled with things-- nothing to do with taking care of people, but, oh, they had it filled with poison pills. Why? They wanted to make certain that relief didn't come. They wanted to make certain that they could run this out and get it past the election. Then we found out from Speaker Pelosi herself and from some of the other Democrats who are in leadership why they did this. Oh, politics. It helped them with the election, they thought. They used people as pawns.

That Heroes Act that they continue to like to talk about would have undermined State voter ID requirements and given the green light to some ballot harvesting schemes. Isn't it interesting? What are we talking about? What are Tennesseans talking about so much? Yes, you got it--ballots, elections, some of the harvesting, some of the tricks. Those items they had in the Heroes Act didn't have anything to do with targeted relief, but do you know what? They were willing to play these games and to withhold that relief. Why? They thought it would help them in winning an election.

That was all back in July. Then comes September 10. The Democrats again block the forward motion on another targeted bill, throwing a procedural hurdle in between the American people and desperately needed relief. They got by with it in July, so September rolls along, and it is about time for people to start getting ballots and mailing in ballots. What do they do? They decide to mess with it again--to play politics, to use people as pawns.

They lower the bar even further on October 21, throwing away $500 billion in targeted relief. They all vote no in an attempt to tear our focus away from another round of funding for small businesses, support for schools, and more money for COVID-19 testing.

Think about this. Time and again, they say: Oh, we have to have more PPP. We have to have more unemployment insurance. We have to have more money for vaccines. We have to have more money for testing. We have to have more money for getting schools open. But they vote no. They have turned their backs on the American people repeatedly. They did it in July. They did it in September. They did it in October. They have turned their backs.

Think about what a plus-up of unemployment insurance would have done for a family had they decided to vote yes and worked with us in July. That would have been a lot of money if they had had that plus-up every single week through August, September, October, November, and December.

I mentioned the October 21 vote. One day earlier, on October 20, the Democrats had blocked Senate action to extend the PPP. That was for all of our small businesses--and yes, indeed, they are hurting. We are hearing from them on the phone and through email. They are begging for relief. The minority leader threw another possibility of compromise out the window by again insisting that the Democrats would accept the full Heroes Act or nothing. Isn't that amazing? That is what small businesses have gotten, is nothing, because my colleagues across the aisle have basically said: Give us everything we want, or we will just vote no. We will just leave people suffering.

It is not the Republicans who have voted no. The Republicans have consistently tried to help people, and my friends across the aisle are consistently trying to help themselves and use people as pawns.

At the beginning of this month, the minority leader took to the floor again. He rejected targeted relief again, and he demanded that the Republicans come to the table. Well, we have been at the table. They are the ones who reject proposal after proposal and don't want to move forward on things on which there is agreement. They want to hold out. They have not been paying attention to what is going on outside the four walls of this Chamber. They continue to say: We have to have money to bail out cities and States. They call it aid to cities and States, but they are bailouts for these big blue cities and States that were having problems long before lockdowns came along and that have really made an uncomfortable spot for themselves because of having irresponsible spending policies.

I know that Tennesseans do not want to see their tax dollars going to bail out people who have chosen to waste their taxpayers' dollars, and I can't help but wonder how much longer the Democrats are going to allow industries and small businesses and individuals to twist in the wind because they feel like this is a great time to push their socialist agenda and get us on that fast track. Oh, that is what they would like to do.

We had a hearing this week in the Commerce Committee and had some of the venues and the live entertainment industry come before us--the people who tend to the stages when the curtains go up, the people who are working backstage. We heard from Michael Strickland, out of Knoxville, whose company, Bandit Lites, helps these shows look great. You have millions of people who are in these support industries. We heard from the motor coach industry. We heard from some of these smaller venues. They are totally shut down. They were totally shut down when the country went into lockdown. They were the first to be totally closed, and they are going to be the last to reopen. These are people, joined by small business retailers and restaurants, who can't open their doors, and they are small business manufacturers who have to wait for the supply chain to kick back up so that they can reopen their production lines.

And they are saying: We need the help. They are asking us: Who is blocking it? Who is holding out? And we tell them repeatedly they could have had relief in July or they could have had it back in September or a couple of times in October or November or earlier in December. And it is not Republicans who have blocked that relief.

Time and again, the Democrats have blocked Republican proposals to send funding where it is needed most. They have rejected every single lifeline that we have tried to throw.

I think it has become clear that the Democrats in Washington, DC, never really saw getting assistance to the unemployed, getting help to small businesses as a priority. Instead, they looked at this, they saw a crisis, they said: Well, this is an opportunity. Let's not let this crisis go to waste.

They have used it so that they can push their message, their agenda: Do what the Federal Government says or we will let you drown.

So they know that their bills weren't meant to act as help. Maybe they were meant to be a push for their leftist agenda. They know that the emergency financial provisions of the CARES Act were never meant to replace private markets or be used as a mechanism to bail out State and local governments. But you know what? They are going to push to try to make it so to further a leftist agenda. Crisis management is no substitute for fiscal policy.

So I would say to our friends on the left, these tactics have failed. It is time to stop using the American people as pawns. Read your mail; listen to the phones. People want targeted relief that will help them to get to recovery.

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