Coloradans in Congress vote for COVID relief along party lines

Colorado’s seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted along party lines late Monday night on a $900 billion coronavirus relief and economic stimulus package, with Republicans opposed and Democrats in favor of the bill.

The legislation passed by a vote of 359-53 and now goes to the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican and chair of the Colorado GOP, voted nay. He has voted against every major coronavirus relief package passed by Congress this year, citing fiscal concerns. Before the vote Monday, he criticized what he sees as extraneous provisions in the latest bill, such as Tibetan human rights legislation, the creation of two museums, and a tax break for racehorse owners.

“Instead of doing the right thing by offering a lifeline to working Americans with targeted relief, Congress has resorted to strapping our future generations with an insurmountable amount of debt,” Buck said in a statement after the vote.

Republican Reps. Scott Tipton, of Cortez, and Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, also voted no. Colorado’s four House Democrats voted in favor of the bill, but said it is inadequately small and that more must be done next year.

“As the pandemic continues to surge across much of the country, communities everywhere need additional relief as soon as possible. This package is a down payment on that relief,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat who was disappointed that aid to state and local governments was not included.

The roughly $900 billion stimulus bill, which was voted on alongside a $1.4 trillion government spending package, includes $166 billion in direct checks. Individuals making $75,000 per year will receive a one-time payment of $600 and couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, plus $600 per child.

It also includes $120 billion in unemployment aid. Jobless Americans will receive $300 per week in federal cash, on top of state unemployment benefits, through mid-March. An additional $325 billion from the bill will go to businesses, primarily through the Paycheck Protection Program. Also, $20 billion is set aside specifically for businesses in poor communities and $15 billion for entertainment venues.

“The short-term relief that this bill will provide to millions of families is important, but it doesn’t do nearly enough to provide everyone with the support they need to get through this crisis,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, in a statement.

Other nuggets in the bill include $29 billion for vaccines and their distribution, $25 billion in federal rental assistance, $15 billion to airlines, $14 billion to mass transit, $13 billion for bolstered food stamp benefits, $13 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers, and $10 billion for state highways.

“As imperfect as it is — and there are things that are not in this bill that should be — it will provide immediate relief for millions of families and small businesses who simply can’t wait any longer,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Aurora, in a floor speech.

“Getting relief into the hands of Coloradans and Americans quickly is essential,” said Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat. “However, we must continue our work to ensure we are meeting the scale and urgency of this crisis with continued assistance for Americans.”

Lamborn, who voted against the bill, criticized its core provisions.

“This legislation includes a $300 weekly federal supplemental unemployment benefit that will unfortunately make one half of Americans receive more by staying home than if they went back to their jobs,” he said. “It also provides a $600 stimulus check to all Americans whether they are employed or not.”

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