COLORADO SPRINGS–Congressman Doug Lamborn, along with just a few others including fellow Colorado Rep. Ken Buck and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky, dissented from the $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus bill, voting no during a voice vote March 27. The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump.
In an interview with Complete Colorado Lamborn said he voted against the stimulus package for reasons of fiscal conservatism and opposition to hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary spending inserted into the bill by Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We’re running out of money as a nation,” said Lamborn.
He and other fiscal conservatives objected to the shotgun approach to the legitimate need to support those put out of work by the virus.
Some of the money is legitimately necessary,” Lamborn said. “We have to have relief, especially for those businesses that are shutting down or employees that are being laid off. The orders of government are telling them to do this, so government should step up and be responsible for the consequence.”
But not everyone has lost their job or been furloughed. The list of essential industries and services is long and those employees are still at work, although some may be experiencing reduced hours.
According to a press release Thursday from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), 61,583 initial unemployment claims were filed the week ending March 28, three times the number filed the previous week of 19,745.
According to the CDLE there are 2,761,346 employees in Colorado as of the third quarter of 2019, the latest figures available.
Lamborn is concerned that simply sending everyone in the country a $1,200 check is irresponsible.
“Is it really worth going into debt for future generations to send checks to people who still have their jobs,” Lamborn says. “When I brought that up people said, ‘this is an emergency and it’s too hard to figure out who should get it and who shouldn’t so will just give it to everybody.’”
Lamborn thinks there’s merit in block-granting the money and letting states figure out who needs to be compensated.
“Different states have different priorities and we see a vastly different set of responses,” said Lamborn. “States have a certain responsibility to take care of their own. One thing that was good about the package and I applaud is that there is money going to states and cities, but not to bail them out and not to reimburse them for lost revenue from lower tax receipts, but to reimburse them for expenses directly incurred because of the coronavirus. Things like emergency care and personnel and things like that.”
But politics is the art of the possible and the resulting bill included massive amounts of spending on things not remotely connected to the COVID-19 pandemic including $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, $75 million for public broadcasting, $80 million for the Peace Corps, and $1 billion for Amtrak.
“How is Amtrak part of the virus epidemic,” Lamborn asked. “$75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, $13 million for Howard University, and $350 million for refugee assistance for people already in our country. Those are examples of unnecessary spending.”
Many Republicans, says Lamborn, had to hold their noses and vote for the bill in order to get the money needed for legitimate pandemic relief thanks to Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have a lot of leverage,” Lamborn said. “Of course, the White House has the most leverage, then the House, because the Democrats basically follow the direction of Nancy Pelosi. The Senate has less leverage because Chuck Schumer can worm his way into the picture because of the 60-vote rule to overcome a filibuster.”
“One thing that myself and some of the other fiscal conservatives wanted was we’ll borrow this now, but let’s have some cost-cutting measures in there. Let’s actually make some cuts someplace or put in some procedures like a balanced budget amendment or at least voting for a balance budget amendment,” Lamborn said. “Let’s do some of those procedural things that help us to maintain discipline in the future because we’re borrowing so much now.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t get that,” Lamborn continued. “I think if Republicans would have been in charge of the House we would have had that.”