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Lankford Fact-checks Democrats’ COVID Bill

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today gave a fiery fact-check of President Biden’s and congressional Democrats’ pork-filled $1.9 trillion funding bill masquerading as a COVID-19 relief package. Lankford cited huge pots of money supposedly allocated to education and vaccines when most of the education dollars are not slated to be spent until next year and vaccine-distribution dollars passed in December have still not been fully spent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lankford also called out reports of funding for a subway tunnel in San Francisco, funding for a bridge in New York, which are clearly not related to COVID-19. Lankford also continued to question why Planned Parenthood needs additional dollars in this bill and why abortions are COVID-19-related spending.

Last week, Lankford took to the Senate floor to call on the CDC on the Senate floor to provide Oklahoma seniors, those with comorbidities, teachers, and others who’ve received the full COVID-19 vaccine regiment with up-to-date guidance on when and in what ways it is safe to move forward with their daily lives now that they are completely vaccinated. His remarks followed a letter he sent to the CDC director requesting the guidance earlier in February.

This week, Lankford joined Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) to introduce legislation to permanently ban earmarks, which enable Members of Congress to add local pet projects to national spending bills. This follows an agreement by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro to bring the practice back to Congress. 

Transcript

Last week, we paused as a congress to recognize half-a-million people that have died in the United States due to COVID. Unfortunately, that number is still climbing. Half-a-million—that’s a lot of families that are affected, that’s a lot of lives lost, that’s a lot of pain that we have experienced as a nation. Obviously, that’s a global pain that is being experienced.

For the last now 11 months, this Congress has gathered in a bipartisan way five times, with wide bipartisan majorities to be able to address the issue of COVID-19. We have allocated $4 trillion, all of it borrowed, all of it. None of this was budgeted money. All of that borrowed money, with a common agreement that this is a pandemic and a crisis, and to be able to stabilize the American economy, we have to do what we have to do. But we should not do more than we have to knowing that every dollar we’re spending is borrowed.

Last year, at almost this exact same date, this Congress gathered together and put together a $2 trillion CARES Act package. It was an aggressive package because we saw the shutdown of the American economy. Quite frankly, we saw the shutdown of the world’s economy at that period. Literally, the world seemed to stop by the end of March, and we all went into seclusion. We saw dramatic spikes in unemployment in desperate need around the country, but we all knew this was a crisis moment, and we will get through it, and we’ll get out of it.

Now almost a year later where we saw unemployment soaring to 15 percent plus across the country, we’re now at 6.7-percent unemployment. Every state is open at some stages and some states completely open. Many schools are open. Some schools continue to stay closed and say they are afraid and that they are not going to reengage, while thousands and thousands of other schools around the country are open and taking care of their kids in person. We have seen this patchwork of response, but one thing is very true about right now versus 11 months ago: we’re in a very different place now as an economy and as a nation than what we were 11 months ago.

But the strange thing is now 11 months later, my Democratic colleagues are putting forward a $1.9 trillion package, almost the exact same size of what we had getting into the beginning of this, they are doing it as just about everyone sees we’re at the end. They want to borrow another $2 trillion. And it’s not just $2 trillion to be able to spend towards COVID. I wish that was so.

One percent of this package actually goes towards vaccines.

Five percent of this package actually goes toward public health.

In the school funding portion of it, 95 percent of the funding in the school funding portion of it, which is $170 billion for school funding, won’t even be spent this year at all. At all. Let me run that past you again. Ninety-five percent of the $170 billion allocated for funding for schools won’t be spent in the year of the pandemic at all. It’s future spending.

And to give you a picture of how big $170 billion is towards education, the total United States education budget for the entire Department of Education this year is $66 billion. For the entire year, for all of education in the whole country, it’s $66 billion. And my Democratic colleagues say, ‘But we need to spend $170 billion just for COVID, which, by the way, we’re not going to even start spending until next year.’ Do you know why? Because this bill is not about COVID.

I wish it was, because there’s real need out there. I wish it was.

This is for things like $350 billion to go to cities and states to be able to bail out some of their pension funds and other things that are there. Why do I say that? Because when you look at the statistics of what the revenue loss for the states across the entire United States, the revenue loss for all states is point-one percent from last year. Point-one percent. Not one percent. Point-one percent change, because almost every state is dependent on property tax. And as people that pay property tax know, you’re still going to have to pay your property tax.

So the revenue, quite frankly, continues to stay strong. In many of the cities that I have in Oklahoma, in fact, one of the cities in my state just last week reported their sales tax revenue is up 20 percent—20 percent in their revenue. Because people are staying home and shopping more. They’re doing more shopping at home, and so the tax revenue is actually coming back into their states and their cities even more in many of these communities. But there is $350 billion allocated to these cities and you would think ‘well, there will be some fair distribution.’ Actually, that would be nice, but it’s not true. They have set up an unemployment formula that’s based on those states that shut down the longest and kept everything closed the longest—they are the ones that actually get the most money.

So, in other words, if you reopened your economy and you worked to get your schools open and you worked to get jobs open, you get a chance to have very little support. If you stay closed and kept your schools closed and kept your businesses closed, well, then you’ll get additional dollars coming in. Regardless of what the revenue is. Even for big states like California that their revenue actually went up last year.

Let me run that past you again: California’s revenue went up last year. They get $27 billion out of this after their revenue went up.

Remembering that in the CARES Act last March, this Congress added $150 billion to cities and states, $150 billion and spread that around the country to be able to cover it. And then because there was a panic to think there is going to be major losses, but at the end of it, [state revenues were] point-one percent off of the previous year.

This as additional funding for Planned Parenthood, and I’m not sure why abortion is needed for COVID relief but they have additional money for Planned Parenthood. They have a tunnel for San Francisco, which clearly is not COVID related. A bridge for New York State. $50 million for climate justice grants. There’s on and on and on all these additional things that are just stuck into the process. And I would say this Congress has been active to be able to do what it takes to be able to help in every moment, but we have also tried to be wise in the process to say, ‘Let’s spend what needs to be spent, when it needs to be spent.’

Let me give you an example of that. As I mentioned for vaccines, in this particular bill, one percent is set aside for vaccines. But that would be interesting except for the fact in vaccines, the CDC has distributed only $3 billion of the almost $9 billion that Congress has allocated to the CDC for vaccine distribution. They still have almost $6 billion remaining for vaccines right now.

They have only spent $20 billion of the $37 billion allocated for the vaccine treatment and development and testing. Only $20 billion of the $37 billion for the actual development, treatment, still another $6 billion remaining for distribution, and on top of all of that, today the Biden Administration said they’ve struck new deals with the vaccine folks so they can get vaccines to every single American by the end of May. They already have all that they need for vaccine distribution, development, and purchasing, yet this particular bill asks for billions more in vaccine because that sounds like a good idea. Except when you check the facts, they already have all they need for the vaccine purchase, development, distribution. But it sounds good, kind of like we need more money for education sounds good when you say you need more money for education, except for the vast majority of the education funds—like around $86 billion—is still unspent from the previous bills in education money that was sent.

For the ag money that has been allocated, $26 billion for ag just done in December, only $24 billion remains of that $26 billion. In other words, ample funds are still sitting there for ag, for assistance, for schools, for vaccines, for testing.

There’s $14 billion, still remaining in the fund for testing, untapped. But my Democratic colleagues can go to the microphone and say, ‘We need money for schools and vaccines and testing.’ And everyone’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, certainly you do,’ until you check the facts and find out this is not about vaccines and testing and schools at all. It’s about all the pet programs that go with it and it’s about allocating billions and billions and billions of dollars to agencies so they can hold them and use them for other things. That’s what this is about. And it hides under the cloak of COVID. And it hides behind the pain of half a million Americans who have lost friends and family members. Don’t use their pain to be able to amp up government. Let’s have the debate about issues that we need to have on government. But don’t abuse the pain of Americans and pretend you’re trying to fix something that we’re not trying to fix.

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