SALT LAKE CITY — Calling it “flawed” legislation, Utah Sen. Mike Lee was one of eight senators who voted against the relief bill that will provide paid sick and family leave for many Americans while also offering free COVID-19 testing and bolstering unemployment insurance.
“The Coronavirus is a real emergency and the federal government can and should act to mitigate the economic pain from this situation,” he said in a tweet. “Unfortunately, this House response bill is Rube Goldberg machine of unfunded mandates and tax benefits that will only end up hurting workers.”
A Rube Goldberg machine, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way.
The Coronavirus is a real emergency and the federal government can and should act to mitigate the economic pain from this situation. Unfortunately, this House response bill is Rube Goldberg machine of unfunded mandates and tax benefits that will only end up hurting workers.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 18, 2020
The Senate passed the multibillion dollar emergency aid package in a 90-8 vote. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted in favor of the bill.
The House approved the measure last week — Utah GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis voted for it, as did Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, did not vote. It now goes to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.
Romney said he was pleased the Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support.
“Now, we must urgently act on additional measures to provide economic relief for working Americans & families, protect health workers & patients, boost small businesses, and help secure our economy,” he tweeted.
Pleased the #COVID19 response package passed the Senate in a bipartisan manner. Now, we must urgently act on additional measures to provide economic relief for working Americans & families, protect health workers & patients, boost small businesses, and help secure our economy. https://t.co/TBzFAu0JsQ— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) March 18, 2020
Congress is now expected to take up a trillion-dollar stimulus package to help lessen the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, including a Treasury Department plan to issue $500 billion in direct payments to Americans. The amounts would depend on family size and income. Romney has proposed sending at least a $1,000 check to every adult.
Lee was among GOP senators who offered amendments Wednesday to the emergency aid bill, all of which failed.
“The House coronavirus bill is flawed legislation that will only make the economic harm from this virus worse,” he posted on Facebook prior to the vote. He said it would increase bankruptcies and unemployment.
Lee said he worked through the night with Republican colleagues to fix what the saw as the biggest problem in the legislation: how to finance it.
The House bill forces businesses to front the money for the new benefit, one many of them cannot afford, especially in this troubled economic time, he said.
Instead of paying affected workers through employers, the government should give people cash directly, Lee said. Affected workers should be able to take a paid “extended leave of absence” and the benefit could be paid directly by the government through the existing unemployment insurance system, he said.
“It would give cash directly to Americans who are self-quarantining because of this virus, and it does so in a way that won’t make the economic problem worse,” he said.