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Inhofe: Democrats should focus on what families need

Sen. Jim Inhofe
Sen. Jim Inhofe

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress enacted the largest relief package in history: $4 trillion over five laws passed with bipartisan support. The economy is bouncing back. The GDP is projected to return to its prepandemic level by the middle of 2021. Under Trump, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were developed and approved in under a year — a modern miracle. Just this last weekend, the FDA approved Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine.

We’re not across the finish line yet, but Oklahoma families are clear in what they want to see: the nation’s economy reopened, children back in schools and public health prioritized — making sure more and more people have access to the vaccine. We’re leading the way in Oklahoma. Gov. Kevin Stitt has kept our state open for business, jobs are being created and new businesses are being recruited to move here. More than one million vaccines have been administered — making Oklahoma a top 10 state for vaccine administration.

There is bipartisan support for a targeted coronavirus bill that prioritizes relief for small businesses, reopening schools and public health, but unfortunately, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have other ideas. This week, Democrats, under the direction of the Biden administration, are ramming a $1.9 trillion bill through Congress that spends hundreds of billions of dollars on untargeted "relief" and advances policies that have nothing to do with COVID recovery.

Instead of focusing on helping small businesses and responsibly reopening the economy, progressives have tried to push an across the board minimum wage hike. According to the CBO, a $15 minimum wage hike would kill 1.4 million American jobs — disproportionately affecting young, less educated people and small businesses. It’s right to want higher wages, but the progressive proposal would cost low-income Oklahomans their jobs — and we can’t afford that.

The Democrats’ legislation also throws money at big city schools, without pushing them to reopen. Dr. Anthony Fauci said it himself on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe": “It’s less likely for a child to get infected in the school setting than if they were just in the community. So for that reason … we need to try and get the children back to school.” And yet — the Biden team keeps moving the metrics for school reopening based on national labor unions. Kids’ presence in schools is not only an investment in our nation’s future, but it is also necessary so we can fully reopen the economy.

Worse, despite claiming “emergency” relief for immediate needs, much of the money designated to get schools open wouldn’t be spent for years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats’ legislation would distribute only $6.4 billion to K-12 schools this fiscal year — that’s on top of the $68 billion in emergency funds we already provided last year. The other $122 billion would go out between 2022 and 2028. Clearly, Democrats’ “urgent relief” is not intended to help kids go back to school; instead, they are using the pandemic as an excuse to fund their liberal agenda in schools across the nation for the next seven years.

Lastly, despite the massive, $1.9 trillion price tag for this legislation that claims to be pandemic relief, almost none of it would go to address the pandemic. Just 1% would go for procuring and distributing coronavirus vaccines. Only 5% would focus on pandemic public health. So what does this bill fund if it isn’t focused on actually providing coronavirus relief? The “relief” bill includes $35 billion in new Obamacare subsidies and $86 billion to bail out union pensions. It actually could have been worse. The Democrat legislation that passed the House included $140 million for transit in Silicon Valley and $1.5 million on a bridge in New York — but we successfully made them take those out.

Democrats should stop trying to go it alone and focus on what American families actually need: our nation’s economy reopened, children back in schools and access to vaccines and public health resources. What we don’t need? Using the pandemic as an excuse to pass a $1.9 trillion bill where just 1% goes towards vaccines.