UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3608; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 86
(Senate - May 07, 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 S2314-S2316]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                   UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3608

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, $3 trillion. As best I can tell, that is 
how much money the Congress has appropriated--let me amend that. That 
is how much taxpayer money Congress has appropriated to fight the 
coronavirus and its aftermath--$3 trillion. That is 12 zeros. Three 
trillion dollars is 3,000 billion dollars.
  These numbers take my breath away. We spent this money even though we 
don't have it. We don't even have 5 percent of it. We borrowed every 
penny. Our national debt will now be approximating, maybe exceeding $25 
trillion.
  The last coronavirus bill that we passed, as you know, was the CARES 
Act, but it was not the only bill. We have passed a number of pieces of 
legislation to try to fight this virus and the COVID-19 that it causes, 
and those bills were very hard for me to vote for, not because I don't 
care about the American people--I do, of course; we all do--but because 
of the fact that this is such a staggering amount of money.
  I have spent my career in government--more at the State government 
level than the Federal Government level--I have spent my career in 
government being cheap when it comes to taxpayer money, and it bothers 
me, as it should bother all of us, that we spent money we don't have.
  I have driven all over Washington, DC, and I can't find the money 
tree. These are taxpayer dollars. But I voted for the bills, including 
but not limited to the CARES Act, because it was clear we had to do 
something. We had to appropriate money to fight the virus. We had to 
appropriate money to help people and their businesses to recover 
economically from the impact of the virus.
  We don't know what works in the CARES Act and what doesn't work, and 
we won't know for a while. I suspect we will look back and say: Well, 
this measure was a pretty smart thing to do--and with hindsight, but 
this measure fell a little bit short.
  But already many of my colleagues, and I say this with respect, have 
other bills to spend even more money, primarily to help State and local 
government. It is like a Labor Day mattress sale around here, the 
number of bills flying around. Someone wants to spend another $250 
billion. Somebody else wants to spend $500 billion and give it to State 
and local government. Speaker Pelosi wants to spend $1 trillion. I 
think all that is premature. I suggest that we pause once again, we see 
what works, we see what has worked, and see what hasn't worked.
  Also, it would seem to me that any fair-minded person would have to 
conclude that we should open up. Once we open up government and see the 
economic impact, we will have additional information. And make no 
mistake about it--we are going to have to open up the economy again. I 
don't see any reason why we can't both save lives and save jobs.
  But I want to make it clear that every single one of these 3 trillion 
dollars, as far as I am concerned, is a precious commodity because they 
come from taxpayers.
  The discussion that many of my colleagues have been having about 
spending additional money on top of the $3 trillion specifically for 
State and local government seems to forget that we have already 
appropriated an enormous amount of money to State and local government.
  In my State, for example--I will just take Louisiana--I think, as a 
result of the CARES Act, we are going to receive about $3\1/2\ billion, 
and I am very grateful for every single penny. This Congress 
appropriated $287 million for public schools in Louisiana, $190 million 
for universities, $623 million for

[[Page S2315]]

hospitals. We have received extra Medicaid payments. Additionally, 
Louisianans have received $1.803 billion for State and local 
government. You add it all up, and that is about $3\1/2\ billion that 
has already been appropriated just to Louisiana. Some States got more; 
some States got less.
  So the point I am trying to make is that we need to recognize the 
fact that we have already done a lot for State government, and we have 
already done a lot for our cities. And I happily voted for the bill. I 
had some reluctance for reasons I have explained--just the breathtaking 
amount of money.
  This doesn't mean that our State and local governments are not going 
to have to sacrifice. We have certainly asked the American people to 
sacrifice, and we have certainly asked the American business community 
to sacrifice, and I think State government and local government are 
going to have to share in that sacrifice. They are going to have to 
scrub their budgets, and that is just a fact.
  As far as I am concerned, the Federal Government needs to do the same 
thing. There is not a single Member of this body who believes every 
single penny we spend in the Federal budget is absolutely necessary.
  I have a bill that I think may well make it unnecessary to 
appropriate new money for our State and local governments. I have a 
bill that I think may well moot the entire issue.
  We made one mistake--we probably made others, but in my judgment, I 
know we made one in the CARES Act when we put restrictions on the 
amount of money we gave to State and local government. Now, I 
understand why we did it, and at the time, I supported it. We do not 
want to bail out States, for example, that have been mismanaged. If a 
State decides to give generous retirement benefits at an early 
retirement age to its State employees, as far as I am concerned, that 
is that State's business, but also, as far as I am concerned, the 
people of Louisiana shouldn't have to pay for that--what, in my 
opinion, is mismanagement--and I think a number of my colleagues in the 
Senate share that sentiment.
  But in hindsight--I will take Louisiana as an example. We received 
$1.8 billion. There is a requirement in the legislation that says that 
$1.8 billion can only be used to defray the expenses of coronavirus 
expended by the State of Louisiana and by our cities. That is what the 
statute says. It is the statute passed by Congress that controls.
  I am not sure what the Treasury Department issued, but they issued 
something--they didn't go through the APA--that says: Well, the 
States--Louisiana, for example, has great flexibility to spend that 
$1.8 billion that we received in Louisiana that went to State and local 
government. They can spend it on first responders and policemen and 
school teachers. I appreciate the Department of Treasury issuing 
whatever it was they issued. I think they called it a directive.
  There is just one problem: The statute doesn't say that, and the U.S. 
Treasury does not have the authority--nor should it--to change a bill 
passed by the Congress.
  So I am grateful to Secretary Mnuchin for trying to help here, but I 
don't believe what he is doing is legal, and it gives me great pause 
that State government and our cities might act on a directive from the 
Treasury that could change 2 weeks from now. I think the only way to 
address this issue is through a statute passed by Congress.
  Here is what my bill would do. My bill would not appropriate any new 
money. Let me say that again. My bill would not appropriate any new 
money. My bill would say that, with respect to the $150 billion that 
this Congress--unanimously, in the Senate--has already appropriated to 
help State governments and local governments, which is the $1.8 billion 
that I am referring to that Louisiana received, they can use that money 
for operating expenses.
  They can't use it--my bill would specifically prohibit it--to bail 
out mismanaged retirement systems. They can't use it to bail out any 
retirement systems, mismanaged or otherwise, but they can use that 
money, with this small change to the CARES Act, to fill the holes in 
their budget as a result of any revenue shortfalls.
  In my State, for example, we are very heavily reliant on the sales 
tax and on the personal income tax. I think this measure may well moot 
the issue of having to appropriate brand new money for States and local 
governments. The Governors I talked to tell me: Kennedy, look, we 
really appreciate the money you sent State and local governments. There 
is just one problem. Our hands are tied. Our problem today is not 
enough money to fight the virus. Our problem today is, How do we fill a 
hole as a result of the shortfalls in our sales tax?
  That is what my bill would do.
  For that reason, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on 
Appropriations be discharged from further consideration of S. 3608--
that is my bill--and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. 
I further ask that the Kennedy substitute amendment at the desk be 
considered and agreed to; that the bill, as amended, be considered read 
for a third time and passed; and that the motions to reconsider be 
considered made and laid upon the table.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. SCOTT of Florida. Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
  Mr. SCOTT of Florida. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I 
clearly appreciate my colleague's remarks. State, local, and Tribal 
governments across our great country are working tirelessly during this 
difficult time and have received Federal funding through the CARES Act, 
specifically directed to aid in their efforts to keep families safe.
  While I understand the spirit of my colleague's proposal, I am very 
concerned that removing the important limitations related to the 
appropriate uses of the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act would 
siphon resources away from the coronavirus response efforts that 
desperately need these resources.
  Further, I am unfortunately hearing that some States and localities 
would simply like to use Federal dollars to backfill their decades of 
fiscal mismanagement. Hard-working American taxpayers should not be on 
the hook to bail out poorly run States or to fund areas of State budget 
expenses that have nothing to do with coronavirus.
  We see States like California, Illinois, and New York with big 
budgets, high taxes, and tons of debt. Contrast that with States like 
Florida, where we made the hard fiscal decisions to pay off debt and 
live within our means. Floridians should not be punished and forced to 
backfill the budgets of these States.
  I have a chart here that shows what has happened as a result--I just 
picked out three States--of their fiscal mismanagement. From 1985 to 
2018, you can see here that Florida gained significant population while 
these poorly managed States lost population. You can see that in 
Florida we watched our budget and didn't keep borrowing more money. We 
lived within our means. You can look at our debt--$27 billion. When you 
look at California, it is $155 billion; New York, $148 billion, and 
Illinois, $67 billion.
  You see what people are doing. They are leaving these high-tax 
States. Look at the personal income taxes and look at their attitude 
toward business. These are the three worst States for business. The Tax 
Foundation shows how poorly they do with their tax policy.
  If you look at what has happened, people have left these States and 
moved their income to Florida and other lower tax States and more 
business-oriented States. I am completely opposed to bailing out these 
States.
  Now, the difficulty in my colleague's proposal is that it is very 
difficult how you decide what is going to be used for one expense in a 
State budget or another expense in a State budget. Let's not forget 
that this year's Federal budget deficit will be the largest in the 
history of our Nation--the largest in the history of our Nation--in 
excess of the cumulative deficits for the first 200 years of our 
country's existence.
  As my colleague said, we will end the year with an excess of $25 
trillion worth of Federal debt. More than ever, I think my colleague 
will agree with me that we have to be focused and very careful with our 
taxpayer dollars.
  I am very supportive of continuing to get needed resources to the 
communities and first responders in need.

[[Page S2316]]

That is why, when the Senate passed the CARES Act, we wisely placed 
limitations on how this money could be spent. We need to maintain those 
guardrails to ensure that the country can continue on a path to 
recovery.
  For these reasons, Mr. President, I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Scott of Florida). The Senator from 
Alaska.

                          ____________________