Sen. Lee Scorches Senate for Not Showing up, Letting 6 Politicians 'Unanimously' Pass Spending Bill
When it comes to senators from Utah, they’re pretty uniformly Republican. However, you can get very different products under the same label.
One brand is Sen. Mitt Romney. Romney has done a lot for the Republican Party over a decades-long career, but — look, sometimes your time has passed. The same can’t be said for the state’s other senator, Mike Lee. He’s not, as they say, of the old school. He’s not of the back-slapper, smoke-filled-room mold.
And that’s why he scorched the Senate for using those kind of tactics for allowing yet another massive spending bill to pass on April 21.
The bill was another $483 billion for COVID-19 relief, according to an April 23 commentary piece by Terence P. Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of CNS News.
In an ordinary situation, we maybe could just let this slide and chalk it up to an emergency. The last few bills, however, have been filled with bailouts and pork that would have, in other days, raised significant objections on the Republican side of the aisle. These are different times, though, and back-slapping is back in action — although the back-slapping was mostly senatords pointing at each other and elbow-bumping, at least these days.
This bill, Jeffrey wrote, “includes $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion ‘to reimburse health care providers for expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the novel coronavirus’; $25 billion ‘to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze tests for COVID-19’; and $62 billion ‘for salaries and expenses for loan programs of the Small Business Administration.’”
He included a quote from Democratic Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
“Now there are plenty of disagreements between our parties these days, but once again we are coming together to pass this legislation by unanimous consent — not a single senator objecting,” Schumer said.
The problem is that there were five other senators present and one — take a wild guess as to who it was — scorched the anything-but-august chamber for passing another massive bill without a reasonable number of senators present.
Lee’s opposition didn’t prevent the bill from passing “unanimously.”
He said he was sympathetic to what many Americans are going through, but expressed concerns about the process.
“This is something that we’ve never seen in this country – not on this scale, not during our lifetimes,” Lee said, about 30 seconds into the video above.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to my fellow Americans and my fellow Utahns as they’re struggling to make ends meet – whether it’s figuring out how to make payroll, or keep food on the table at home, or a combination of both, as it is for so many. I’m mindful of them, and of all the difficulty that the American people are going through right now.”
He also noted the need for social distancing, while saying that “[i]f COVID-19 requires Congress to act, then it requires Congress to convene.”
Lee continued that “all the essential work of Congress – that is, any step necessary in order to enact legislation, the task of legislating itself – can be done only by members who are voting and present in their respective legislative chamber, either this Senate or the House of Representatives.”
“I want to begin by echoing something that Senator Schumer said a moment ago: We need to do what we were elected to do. Although I don’t agree with everything Sen. Schumer just said, and in fact I strongly disagree with a lot of what he just said, but I do agree with that. We need to do the job we were elected to do,” he continued.
This wasn’t just a Thomas Massie-ish complaint about there not being a quorum. Lee had issues with how the bill was negotiated without the full Senate involved.
“This isn’t legislating,” he said. “I was interested a few minutes ago, when Senator Schumer was talking, as he was referring to provisions that were ‘negotiated successfully last night’ to add this or that provision into this deal.
Not so, Lee said.
“Most of us were not part of that process. Most of us saw this legislative package, this bill, only within the last few hours,” he said, about the video’s 6:45 mark.
“That, Mr. President, isn’t a true negotiation. It’s not a true legislative process,” he continued.
“I understand that we’re in unusual circumstances, but we can’t let it happen this way again. This is not acceptable.”
It’s not, no. And by the way, when it comes to social distancing, it turns out that none of the six senators on the floor wore face masks. I understand that makes less sense when there are only six people in the chamber — but the Capitol is a big building and I have no doubt social distancing could have been practiced with a quorum of senators.
This was, in the era of COVID-19, a scorching rebuke of how Congress is doing its job. Was there a need for social distancing? We didn’t see it on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, not even as a show of solidarity with the rest of us plebes being told to do it. Were these senators needed back in their home states? Doing what, watching “Tiger King“?
I’m not saying we don’t need to spend unprecedented amounts of money to fight COVID-19. However, we’re spending, in certain places, like a drunken poker player.
You’ll notice the language in the metaphor. Poker players spend obscene amounts of money, especially if they’re good. They get a return on that investment. In their case, it’s in the form of money; we’ll see different returns.
A poker player receiving bottle service at the table, on the other hand, isn’t quite receiving the returns the Phil Hellmuths of the world are.
In some areas, we’ve seen dramatic returns. In others, it’s clear we’ve thrown money at pet projects and it-sounded-good-at-the-time things. When you have only powerful people at the table, people who have no reason to trim the fat because they live off the fat — whether it goes to their state, their district or the districts of their supporters — no, we don’t get returns.
Mike Lee is right. We need our senators back in the Senate.
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