UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3608; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 95
(Senate - May 20, 2020)

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[Pages S2541-S2544]
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                   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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  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.