May 20, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 95 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3608; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 95
(Senate - May 20, 2020)
Text available as:
Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.
[Pages S2541-S2544] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3608 Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to talk for a few minutes about the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility for State and Local Government Act. Before I get to my motion, I just want to make a couple of points. Point 1, as you know, we have passed four bills dealing with the pool of misery America and the world find themselves in with respect to the coronavirus. We have spent a breathtaking amount of money. I never imagined that I would vote for bills of the magnitude that I have voted for, but we all did what we had to do. If you add up the four bills, we have spent $3 trillion so far. I have expressed it this way before, but I am going to keep doing it because it is just a breathtaking amount of money: $3 trillion is 3-0- 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 taxpayer dollars. We may have to spend another $3 trillion As you know, we set up some facilities at the Federal Reserve. They are called 13(3) facilities, through which the Federal Reserve is loaning money to American businesses to try to keep them afloat after the government shut down the American economy. The Federal Reserve cannot lose money. I am not suggesting that all $3 trillion that the Federal Reserve ends up loaning out will remain unpaid. I hope not. But for the portion that does go into default, we are going to have to appropriate money to cover those losses. We already appropriated $450 billion, but if the losses go higher, we have to cover them. We have spent $3 trillion for certain and, potentially, we are going to have to spend another $3 trillion. It is a staggering amount of money. The entire U.S. economy, the greatest economy in all of human history, to put things in context, is $21 trillion a year. That is how much we produce a year if you add up all the goods and services that we, as Americans, produce. As you know, Speaker Pelosi has introduced yet another bill, a fifth bill. The House has passed it. It was on a party-line vote. I think one Republican voted for the bill. A number of Democrats voted against it. It was a close [[Page S2542]] vote, but the House passed it at Speaker Pelosi's suggestion. It would cost another $3 trillion. I have to tell you, when I first heard about the bill and after I looked at the bill, I was very, very surprised. I was shocked. I don't mean to overstate my case. I didn't faint or anything, but maybe it would be fair to say that my emotions were a cross between surprise and shocked. It is not a coronavirus bill. It is a ``remake American society'' bill. For one thing, it would cost another $3 trillion. I am not going to recite the zeros again, but $3 trillion is $3,000 billion on top of the money we have already spent. It really would remake American society. The Speaker included provisions about immigration laws. A lot of taxpayer money would be given to people who are in our country illegally. It would let Federal prisoners go free. It would expand the Affordable Care Act, which even President Obama calls Obamacare. I remember when ObamaCare passed. We were promised--President Obama promised--that if you pass this bill, health insurance will be cheaper, and it will be more accessible, and your life will be better. None of those things have any resemblance to reality. Of course, I could go on about Speaker Pelosi's legislation. It is not going to pass the Senate. I suspect she knows that. What is going to happen next in this opera? Well, if past is prologue, the majority leader and the minority leader in the Senate and the majority leader in the House and the Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin--all of whom I have respect for--will go off and they will negotiate a deal, and then they will come back and they will present it to the Senate and the House. I could be wrong, of course. I am in labor, not management. I could be wrong, of course, but the bill will not go through regular order. It will never be considered by committee. We probably will not be allowed to amend the bill because a deal has been made. It will be ``take it or leave it.'' Now, if past is prologue, given the circumstances, people will moan and groan, but they will vote for the bill, whether they know what is in it or not, whether they were included in the discussions or not. That is what happened with the CARES Act. I am not sure that is going to happen this time. I am not sure that this time the non-negotiating Senators and House Members are going to moo and follow their leaders into the chute like cows. I think this time might be different. I am not saying that is a good or bad thing. It depends on what the deal is. I am raising the possibility. Speaker Pelosi could eliminate every other word in her bill and cut the price tag in half and I still don't think that the Republicans of the Senate are going to support it. If she takes out all the goodies for the leftwing--the left leftwing--of her party--I don't use that in a pejorative sense. If she takes out all the goodies that remake Western civilization in her bill, I am not sure that the leftwing of her party in the House is going to vote for it. What I am saying is, for better or worse, I am not sure there is going to be a fifth bill. That is point 2. Point 3, let me go back to our CARES Act. In our CARES Act, we spent an enormous amount of money to help States and to help local governments. We gave $150 billion directly to States and cities to combat the coronavirus. We appropriated extra money on top of that for public schools. We appropriated extra money on top of that $150 billion for universities. We appropriated extra money on top of all that for our hospitals, many of which are public. We appropriated extra money on top of all of that to give States extra Medicaid money. My State received $1.8 billion for State and local government, $300 million for public schools, $200 million for universities, over $600 million and climbing for our hospitals, and extra Medicaid money. It is about $3.5 billion in Louisiana. That is a lot of money along the bayou. I want to dissuade people who say we haven't done anything for State and local government. We have. We have done a lot. That is point 3. Point 4, I am not guaranteeing it is my final point, but I intend it to be. Point 4, the $1.8 billion that we gave State and local government has restrictions. It can only be spent combating the coronavirus. If you don't spend it combating the coronavirus, you are supposed to give it back. That will happen when donkeys fly. We will never see that money again. It is spent, for better or worse. And I voted for the bill. I don't think any fairminded person can deny the fact--and I think it is a fact--that as a result of the coronavirus, just as the Federal Government has had and will have revenue shortfalls, so will State governments and so will cities. People haven't been paying sales tax because they haven't been buying stuff. People haven't been paying income tax at the State and local levels because they haven't been working. I wish that weren't the case, but it is a fact. My bill would say to those States and cities: You can use the $1.8 billion to offset revenue shortfalls. Some of my colleagues for whom I have great respect--one of them is here tonight, Senator Rick Scott, and I mean that. He was a heck of a Governor. He is a heck of a Senator. They have argued that we shouldn't give that flexibility because some States are mismanaged. I agree with that. I do. If I were King for a day and had a magic wand, I would take all of the many measures that then-Governor Scott implemented in Florida and say we need to do these in every State. We can debate whether that would violate federalism, but I watched him carefully as Governor. He was a great Governor. When he inherited Florida, it was a mess, and he cleaned it up. So when he and others make the point that we shouldn't bail out mismanaged States, I agree with that. But I can't divorce myself from the fact that every State--mismanaged, well managed, medium managed, poorly managed--has revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't cut their budgets. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't scrub their budgets. We ought to do it at the Federal level. That will happen, too, when donkeys fly. We expect our friends at the State level and at the local level to scrub their budgets, but I still think they are going to come up short. I worry that if they do that and they have to start laying off first responders, it is going to hurt the recovery. Now, not everybody agrees with what I have just said, and not everybody agrees with Senator Scott's position. Reasonable people disagree sometimes. But this much I also know: Whether you agree or disagree for the next 6 months, Senator Scott is not going to convince, for example, Governor Cuomo of New York to adopt his position. I am pretty confident of that. And over the next 6 months, Governor Cuomo is not going to convince--I know this--Senator Scott to adopt his position. In the meantime, we have a problem to deal with. I will make one final point. Some of my colleagues have said: Kennedy, we don't need your bill because the Treasury Department through the Secretary of Treasury has issued directives saying that the money can be used for first responders. Now, look, I am a big Secretary Mnuchin fan. I think he has been a rockstar through this process, but I don't understand this concept of a directive. I know what a rule is. I know what a regulation is. I know what due process is. I know what the Administrative Procedure Act is, and I don't think a directive fits into those categories. I also know that a Secretary of a department, no matter how bright and capable and talented he may be, cannot change an act of Congress, and the CARES Act doesn't say a dadgum thing about using this money for first responders. If I am a Governor, I am going to worry that, if I do spend the money without an act of Congress, that someday: Knock, knock, knock on my door. Hello? I am from the government. In fact, I am an inspector general, and I want to see your books, and I have looked at your books, and I want you to give that money back. It has happened before. The only way to give our friends in State and local government security is for us to pass law, not for the bureaucracy to tell us what we did. We know what we did. Look, I know that some on my side of the aisle disagree with me, and I have learned a little bit in 3\1/2\ years. I [[Page S2543]] have learned two things mostly. I learned this the first week: Everybody up here who smiles at you is not your friend. And, No. 2, I have learned up here you have got to watch what people do, not what they say. This bill is not coming to the floor of the U.S. Senate anytime soon. I know that. I get it. I am just saying it should. I am saying it if it does--if it does--it will get 90 votes. I am saying, finally, that these revenue losses are real. Managed, mismanaged--we can debate that forever. They are real, and we have got to get this economy up and going again. If States are laying off teachers and first responders and policemen and firemen and people at public hospitals or raising taxes, it is going to be that much harder. That is why we ought to pass my bill. It doesn't spend a single, solitary new penny--no new money. It just gives Governors and mayors a little more flexibility. For that reason, I have to read this long script. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that, at a time to be determined by the majority leader in consultation with the Democratic leader, the Committee on Appropriations be discharged from further consideration of S. 3608 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration; I further ask unanimous consent that there be 2 hours of debate, equally divided between the proponents and the opponents of the bill, and that upon the use or yielding back of that time, the Kennedy substitute amendment No. 1581 be considered and agreed to; that the bill, as amended, be considered read a third time, and that the Senate vote on passage of the bill, as amended, with a 60 affirmative vote threshold for passage with no intervening action or debate; finally, if passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? The Senator from Florida. Mr. SCOTT of Florida. Mr. President, reserving the right to object. The first thing I want to do is I want to thank my colleague from Louisiana for the kind words about my tenure as Governor and tell him I respect and admire his passion for being a U.S. Senator and his passion for the wonderful State of Louisiana, which is a wonderful State. As we all know, this is a challenging time for every level of government. This crisis was unprecedented, and Congress absolutely took bold action to stem the spread of the virus and work to save our economy. But if we are not careful, Congress will create another equally devastating crisis down the road, a crisis of our own making. Our national debt and deficits--already at unsustainable levels--have skyrocketed as Congress has spent, as my colleague said, almost $3 trillion to address this crisis. To put that in perspective, Congress has spent $9,000 for every American--$9,000 for every American. At some point, we need to start thinking about the impact this spending will have on the future of our children and our grandchildren and how we are impacting our ability to fund our military and our safety nets like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Again, I know everyone here, including my colleague from Louisiana, wants to help their State. I want to help States too, which is why I support continuing the existing restrictions tied to the coronavirus relief fund that were included in the CARES Act to make sure this spending is for coronavirus relief and response. Regardless of whether we are removing existing guardrails or talking about completely new funding, both actions would result in a blank-check bailout for States. Let's remember, we are talking about $150 billion. To put that in perspective, the median income for a worker in Florida is approximately $30,000; $150 billion will pay the total annual income for more than 5 million Floridians. And let's talk about who we are bailing out here: Not those on unemployment, we took care of them in the CARES Act; not our teachers, we took care of them in the CARES Act; not our healthcare workers, we took care of them in the CARES Act. We are bailing out liberal politicians who cannot live within their means, and now, we are asking Floridians to pay for the incompetency of Governors like Andrew Cuomo. We know California, New York, and Illinois have no problem using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund their liberal priorities and to backfill their budget shortfalls and solve their longstanding fiscal problems. But it is not fair to the citizens of States like Florida, where we made the hard choices to put our State on a financially secure path. The Wall Street Journal laid it out clearly for us this week when they said: Democrats in Albany are claiming to be victims of events that are out of their control. But they have increased annual spending by $43 billion since 2010--about $570,000 for each additional person. Florida's annual budget has increased by $28 billion while its population has grown by 2.7 million--a $10,400 increase per new resident. New York has a top state-and-local tax rate of 12.7 percent, while Florida has no income tax. Yet New York has a growing budget deficit, while Mr. Scott, as Governor of Florida, inherited a large deficit but built a surplus and paid down State debt. The difference is spending. The Wall Street Journal concluded: The policy question is why taxpayers in Florida and other well-managed States should pay higher taxes to rescue an Albany political class that refuses to restrain its tax and spend governance . . . Mr. Scott is right. The Wall Street Journal is right, so is the Chicago Tribune, which called out its own State leaders this week for mismanaging Illinois taxpayer dollars. The Chicago Tribune said: Preparing for the next recession and the next unanticipated crisis--think pandemic--is a huge component of leadership. So when our politicians whimper that they're helpless in the face of disaster, remember: They and their forebears had decades in which to prepare for whatever would surprise them. Instead they chose to borrow more money, spend on new programs and watch their pension indebtedness sore. American families make responsible budgetary decisions every day. Successful companies make responsible budget decisions every day. Well- managed States like Florida have done it for years. It is time for New York, Illinois, and California to do the same. Let's look at--and my colleague said some of this: We have given States $150 billion--billion--for their COVID expenses. Now, to put that in perspective, with hurricanes, we don't give 100 percent. We had four major hurricanes while I was Governor. The Federal Government, one, did not cover all the expense of the hurricane and did not cover any budget shortfalls I had, any lost revenues I had, which I had when tourists couldn't come during a hurricane and after. Five hundred billion dollars in short-term loan opportunities for municipal governments, $45 billion in FEMA disaster funds, $30 billion for education, and we have no earthly idea whether education costs have gone down or gone up. I would assume education costs have gone down; $34 billion for mass transit community grants; $270 billion for emergency appropriations; $50 billion for Medicaid, and, again, we haven't seen it, but I would assume our Medicaid costs so far have gone down. Then on top of it, through the small business relief, individual checks, unemployment, we have given our States another $1.3 trillion. Now, put that in perspective, their annual revenues, not including Federal dollars, is a little over $1 trillion a year, so look at what we have already spent. So as you can see from this chart, Congress has already allocated billions in direct and indirect aid to States and localities. Total direct funding from the Federal Government exceeds $1 trillion dollars--trillion. Even this doesn't begin to account for another $1.3 trillion in indirect assistance to small businesses, individuals, and increased unemployment benefits to families in all of our States. These numbers, as my colleague has said, are staggering, what we have already spent. We have to get serious about how we are spending taxpayer money and the fact that this year's Federal budget deficit will be the largest in the history of our Nation. While it may be tempting and easy to believe that removing the restrictions on the coronavirus relief fund will satisfy States looking for a bailout, I am afraid that we are all mistaken. It will never be enough. These funds are still [[Page S2544]] needed, one, for coronavirus relief, and, unfortunately, many States have not been shy about their desire for hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts for their liberal agendas. I am not going to let this happen. I think about this in the context of my seven grandchildren. We cannot saddle them and children like them all across our great country with mountains of debt. Right now, the debt stands at over $77,000 per American. Now, think about that for a second. The median income for Americans is about $33,000, and we already have put them on the hook for $77,000--$9,000 just with what we have done this year. Now, to put that in perspective, after the first 200 years of this country's existence, national debt per person was around $3--$3, after 200 years--and now, we are at $77,000. I think about that in the context of a Social Security recipient like my mom. How are we helping people like my mom when we run multiple trillion-dollar deficits and grow our national debt to an excess of $26 trillion? What happens to those living on fixed incomes when our deficits and national debt cause high inflation? I grew up in a poor family in public housing. My mom worked three jobs and my parents--my adopted dad and my mom--were constantly struggling for work. Even though my mom had no money, she told me: You are the luckiest kid alive because you grew up in this country. She was optimistic, and she was hopeful. She told us that we were blessed because God and our Founders created the greatest country ever, where anything was possible. To take away the same opportunities I had to live the American Dream from our children and grandchildren would not only be a political failure, it would be an abdication of our moral responsibility. It is time we make the hard choices to put our Nation on a path to recovery--recovery from this virus, from the economic devastation it brought with it, and the fiscal calamity that decades of politicians have ignored. I hope my colleagues will join me in this fight to keep our country's future bright. To do that, we have to make hard choices; we have to be fiscally responsible. Mr. President, I therefore respectfully object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio. ____________________