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Brooks, Byrne vote against latest version of House coronavirus relief bill

This version was $2.2 trillion, slimmed down in an effort to reach an agreement with Republicans who have offered only a $1 trillion proposal in negotiations.

A flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (STOCK PHOTO)

Congressmen Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, and Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, voted against the latest version of the Democratic Heroes Act.

Byrne said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, advanced a doomed bill and that Pelosi, despite promising on July 26 that the House would not adjourn without a bipartisan deal, is scheduled to send her caucus home tomorrow through the November election without reaching any agreement.

“Instead of fixing a problem, Speaker Pelosi’s pandering, cynical ‘relief’ legislation would make things worse,” Byrne claimed. “Instead of ‘protecting our heroes’ as Pelosi’s talking points repeat ad nauseum, this bill would endanger communities by slashing police funding and releasing federal prisoners, harm working families by giving amnesty and stimulus checks to illegal immigrants, hurt small businesses by paying people more to stay at home than work, and jeopardize the lives of the unborn by funneling small business aid to Planned Parenthood.”

This bill is the latest Democratic proposal. The original Heroes Act was $3.4 trillion. This version was $2.2 trillion, slimmed down in an effort to reach an agreement with Republicans who have offered only a $1 trillion proposal in negotiations.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been handling negotiations for the White House. Mnuchin this week was optimistic that the two sides would reach a deal but that it would be smaller than $2.2 trillion.

“I’ll be voting against Nancy Pelosi’s HEROES Act 2.0, which I call the Cowards Act, if given the opportunity,” Brooks said on social media. “These so-called economic ‘stimulus’ bills are, in fact, economic depressants. Paying people more to not work than to work is a guaranteed way to collapse the economy. The American economy shrunk on an annualized basis by 32.9% in the second quarter thanks to so-called ‘stimulus’ bills. It should come as no surprise that fewer people working producing goods and services depresses economic activity.”

“The bill is also packed with unrelated provisions, including legalizing marijuana banking, giving a tax break to millionaires living in places like New York City and Los Angeles, and providing for election mandates on states designed to help Democrats,” Byrne added. “We should truly and in good faith be working to help people, not playing games.”

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Byrne said that among its many provisions, the COVID-19 aid bill contained a number of partisan poison pills making getting Republican support unlikely. These include:

  • Removing $600 million from the original Heroes Act intended for the COPS Hiring program and state and local law enforcement assistance
  • Mandating a blanket release for certain covered federal prisoners and alleged criminals, while imposing a high burden for the government to prove they present a risk of harm to society upon release
  • Allowing undocumented immigrants to receive direct stimulus payments by not requiring social security number verification
  • Providing “deferred action” and work authorization during the emergency declaration and for 90 days after for immigrants without documented working
  • Removing provisions in the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood
  • Allowing the marijuana industry to access banking services and products
  • Including early voting, no ID requirement for in-person voting, same-day registration and no excuse vote by mail

Democrats point to other provisions:

  • A new version of the Paycheck Protection Program that serves the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits, provides hard-hit businesses with second loans and delivers targeted assistance for the restaurant industry and independent live venue operators
  • $225 billion in funds for education to bolster education and child care including $182 billion for K-12 schools, nearly $39 billion for post-secondary education and $57 billion to support child care for families
  • The bill provides $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, isolation measures and free COVID-19 treatments
  • $28 billion for procurement, distribution and education campaigns for a safe and effective vaccine
  • Enhances the new employee retention tax credit that encourages employers to keep employees on their payroll
  • Protection for Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance by making unemployed Americans automatically receive the maximum ACA subsidy on the exchanges, as well as a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for uninsured Americans
  • Raises the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent and provides additional funding for nutrition programs including targeted support for farmers and producers impacted by the coronavirus crisis
  • New resources for safe elections, an accurate Census and the troubled U.S. Postal Service

While Democrats control the House of Representatives and can pass any coronavirus relief bill they want in the House, without GOP agreement it can’t pass the Senate or be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District and is not running for re-election. Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and has no Democratic general election opponent.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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