Mid-South senators oppose $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package

Updated: Mar. 7, 2021 at 1:41 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The U.S. Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan this weekend.

While polls show many Americans support the measure, in particular the $1,400 stimulus checks, Mid-South senators do not.

Biden has made the plan a key focus of his first 100 days in office.

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Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers, have been pushing the bill forward without any Republican support.

“This is really important for us. The SNAP payments are really important for us. It’s a bill that Memphis really, really, really needs,” said Memphis Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. “When your economy has been devastated by COVID, you need to help the economic sectors that have been affected adversely and that’s what we’ve tried to do here.”

All six mid-south senators came out strongly against it, calling it “reckless” and “radical.”

“Tennesseans deserve better than this partisan wish list. Only nine percent of this bill is COVID-related. The rest is allocated to liberal pet projects and blue state bailouts,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.

“President Biden and Congressional Democrats have billed this reckless spending spree as COVID-19 relief, but in reality, it has little to do with ending the pandemic,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. “The bill is full of unnecessary spending that will overheat the economy at a time when infections are dropping nationwide. It is no surprise that this bill has not earned a single Republican vote. This is no way to govern, and I strongly oppose this legislation.”

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“The American people deserve relief, but instead Democrats are trying to force through a bill filled with funding for left-wing priorities,” said Sen. Tom Cotton. R-Arkansas.

But a poll by Morning Consult shows 77 percent of Americans, including 59 percent of Republicans support the stimulus checks in the bill.

WMC political analyst Michael Nelson says while it seems like Republicans are going against the tide, there’s likely a longer-term strategy at play.

“Republicans in Congress are thinking a year and a half from now when the midterm election comes along, this bill may not look so good in hindsight,” said Nelson. “That’s the gamble they’re taking.”

Whether they support the bill or not, politicians on both sides will try to take advantage of certain provisions, like money for infrastructure.

“While I think it’s ridiculous that they spent 1.9 trillion dollars on something other than what was needed for the virus, if that’s an option we’re going to certainly do everything we can to utilize it,” said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

The bill, which no longer includes a $15/hr. minimum wage provision, now heads back to the House for likely final approval on Tuesday, before heading to the president’s desk.

Democrats are rushing to get the bill to the president’s desk before March 14, when unemployment benefits expire.

Stimulus checks could start going out by the end of the month into early April.

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