Johnson, GOP blast ‘bloat’ in COVID relief bill

Johnson, GOP blast ‘bloat’ in COVID relief bill

By Jocelyn King; Martins Ferry Times Leader, March 26, 2021

WHEELING — Republican lawmakers, including Ohio’s Bill Johnson and Rob Portman, say the $1.9 trillion COVID relief stimulus package bill passed by Congress this week is filled with unnecessary spending.

Rep. Johnson, R-Ohio, said too little of the funding in the bill will actually go to battle the coronavirus.

“The bottom line is the Democrats’ almost $2 trillion COVID relief legislation has very little to do with combatting the coronavirus or bringing relief to those Americans affected by it,” he said. “In fact, less than 9 percent of this latest legislation goes directly toward addressing COVID public health concerns, and much of the money won’t be spent for years. Plus, there is still approximately $1 trillion left unspent from the bipartisan relief bills that Congress passed and became law last year.”

Sen. Portman, R-Ohio, also spoke against the bill. He and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined a group of 10 GOP senators who pitched an alternative, pared-down relief bill to Biden.

“There are parts of this bill, especially those that mirror our Republican alternative on supporting the production and distribution of additional vaccines, that will help,” Portman said. “But there are hundreds of billions in spending in this measure that are unnecessary when we know that nearly half of the last $900 billion COVID-19 relief package enacted in December has yet to be spent. We also know that a significant portion of spending in the bill signed into law today won’t be spent well into next year and years later.”

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-West Virginia, joined all Republicans in Congress in voting against the COVID relief bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

The final bill contains $1.5 billion for community mental health services relating to addiction, and another $1.5 billion for the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. McKinley had requested another $3 billion be added to the amount in the House, but that request was denied.

“This bill … fails to provide adequate funding to combat the opioid crisis,” McKinley said in a statement released this week. “In fact, Democrats could only support less than one-tenth of a percent to fund substance abuse and mental health services.

“Additionally, there’s still $1 trillion of pandemic relief that hasn’t been spent yet and it will take years for all of this additional COVID money to be sent out,” he continued. “Right now, the American people are counting on Congress to provide them with additional support during these unprecedented times, however, this bloated bill doesn’t accomplish that goal.”

Last month, McKinley made his plea to Congress to put more funding toward opioid addiction. He compared the number of deaths last year due to COVID to the number of drug-related deaths in the nation during 2020.

He said COVID is killing people at five times the rate of substance abuse deaths, but America is spending 750 times the money to deal with COVID than with substance abuse. McKinley has compared the $8 billion in federal dollars allocated to substance abuse treatment during 2020 to the $6 trillion spent on COVID last year.

Capito had not released a new statement on the bill’s Wednesday passage through the House, but mirrored many Republican criticisms in discussing her “no” vote on the bill in the Senate — a lack of bipartisanship coupled with too much spending on non-COVID issues.