Today, Republican senators are pushing hundreds of ideological, special-interest-backed amendments to President Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan. “Vote-a-rama” amendments include preserving Trump’s border wall and reversing Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, among others.
Mitch McConnell is using the procedural vote-a-rama maneuver as a partisan tactic to get Democratic senators on the record about issues that have nothing to do with the pressing matter at hand—getting much-needed aid as soon as possible to Americans suffering from the social, public health, and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Follow along as we live-track the amendments and votes below and on Twitter at @accountable_us.
SPECIAL INTEREST GIVEAWAYS
Special Interest Giveaways & S
Tax Breaks For Massive Space Corporations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced SA 77 and SA 78, amendments “relating to the inclusion of spaceports as a qualifying category for exempt facility bonds” and allowing “extension of allowance for depreciation deductions for space transportation vehicles.” These could benefit private space operators and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who already benefit from numerous tax breaks and loopholes. Musk is reportedly planning to build a “luxury spaceport” in Texas.
Industry Favorite Burr Introduced Amendment to Boost Biomedical Industry.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced SA 209, an amendment to “advanc[e] biomedical research and development, which may include promoting public-private partnerships and reducing regulatory burden.” Burr is a longtime investor in the biomedical industry, with him and his wife having bought and sold as much as $1.1M in biomedical company stock since 2013. STAT News called him “one of pharma’s favorite senators” with North Carolina’s bioscience trade group confirming, “The industry feels very positive about Sen. Burr…He’s done a stellar job.”
Blocking Meaningful Action to Combat Climate Change. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced SA 644, a point of order against the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Green Climate Fund which was created to “[help] developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their ability to respond to climate change.” Barrasso has received
over $1.1M from the oil & gas industry and recently criticized a Biden executive order banning new oil and gas leases on federal lands and water. Major oil & gas companies have plowed more than $110 billion into fossil fuel infrastructure since the Paris accords were initially signed.
BAD FOR WORKERS AND FAMILIES
Bad for Workers & Families: The amendment process is intended to help make bills better. Instead, Republican senators seemingly are trying to make President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package worse for the American people—by attaching amendments to the bill that hurt workers and families at a time when they need the most support. Here’s what they evidently think hard-working Americans deserve:
Refusing To Provide Aid To
States & Local Governments Responsible For Distributing COVID Vaccine. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced SA 379, an amendment to “stop state and local government bailouts.” This attempt to reduce aid to state and local governments comes as the pandemic has reduced tax receipts by billions, threatening both public services and jobs. This comes as recent news confirmed that the Trump administration actively lobbied against providing additional aid to state and local governments to help them distribute the COVID vaccine.
Blocking Direct Aid To Working Families. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced SA 554, an amendment “preventing third round of stimulus checks.” Toomey’s amendment to deny direct relief to Americans comes despite Congressional Budget Office reporting that direct recovery rebates boost the GDP by 60 cents on the dollar, recent polling shows the vast majority of Americans support additional aid, and prominent Senators in his own party such as Lindsey Graham have called for the measure.
Forcing Workers To Choose Between Their Jobs And Their Health. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced SA 357, an amendment “enforc[ing] of return-to-work requirements for unemployment assistance.” This attempt to further undercut benefits comes as the
unprecedented economic turmoil wrought by COVID-19 forced at least 8 million Americans into poverty and after reports some employers cruelly flouted COVID-19 protections as the Department of Labor under Trump failed to meaningfully e nforce worker safety.
Siding With Big Business Over Workers. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced SA 401, an amendment “relating to liability protections for small businesses.” Corporate liability protections have been desperately sought by industry, with the Chamber of Commerce even working with Senate Republicans to draft a previous corporate immunity bill.
Wrong Priorities: At a time when millions of American families don’t have enough money to pay rent or put food on the table, Republican senators are also exploiting the COVID-19 relief bill amendment process to serve their own wildly off-base sense of priorities. They are tacking on amendments to advance pet projects and far-right policy priorities that have nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what they think the American people most need right now:
Further Attempting To Undo The ACA. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced SA 384, an amendment “protecting preexisting conditions; ensuring people can purchase the health care they want.” As a candidate running for Senate
in 2018, Scott used the language of allowing families to buy the healthcare they want and a professed desire for preexisting condition protections, while supporting repeal of the Affordable Care Act—which would jeopardize health coverage for millions and strip Americans of coverage protections for pre-existing conditions. Scott has also used this language to push for insurance to be sold across state lines, which threatens plan quality standards.
Protecting Tax Giveaways For W
ealthy Corporations. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced SA 555, an amendment to permanently extend provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 allowing for “full expensing for investments in short-lived assets such as machinery and equipment.” These provisions are currently set to “begin phasing out in 2022” and eliminated by 2026. Institutes have found these accelerated depreciation breaks encourage tax shelters, drain Treasury revenue, and are mostly irrelevant to small businesses, for little economic benefit.
Protecting Nearly $3 Billion In Contracts For Trump’s Border Wall. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced SA 542, an amendment “prohibiting the cancellation of contracts for physical barriers on the border,” effectively forcing the Biden Administration to continue con
structing former President Trump’s border wall which under the Trump administration exploded in cost, adding at least $2.9 billion in supplemental agreements and change orders alone.