Unlike Trump's COVID Bills, Biden's $1.9 Trillion Plan Largely Spends Money On The Virus

As House members prepare for the anticipated vote on President Joe Biden's nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday, some Republicans have spent much of their time lamenting the massive amount of money that it will cost taxpayers.

Specifically, they have argued that just a fraction of the stimulus proposal would actually go to fighting the pandemic, with several sharing a pie chart on social media that claims just 9 percent is set aside for "COVID health spending," while 91 percent would be "non-COVID" spending.

"Unfortunately, this bill is too costly, too corrupt and too liberal," House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters this week. "We believe in spending money when it comes to COVID...this seems like a payout for those who agree with them politically — that's a corrupt system and that's wrong."

But according to an analysis from the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the number is a bit more complicated. About 25 percent would be put toward major coronavirus response efforts — vaccinations, testing and other containment measures, unemployment payments and reopening schools. Less than 1 percent of the bill's total is dedicated to vaccines.

Democrats have described at least half of the additional funding as being linked to the pandemic — at least loosely or with possible objections.

A quarter of the proposal, or about $500 billion, would go toward funding the $1,400 per person stimulus checks that Biden has proposed as a boost to the most recent $600 per person direct payment. Another quarter would go to plug budget holes for state and local governments that have been badly hit by the pandemic — both to their tax bases from fewer people working and spending money and also from the increased efforts that they've undertaken.

In all, CRFB found that long-standing policy priorities that are not directly related to COVID-19 would make up about 15 percent of spending, or about $300 billion.

The latest COVID relief bill is a departure from the previous two signed into law during President Donald Trump's administration. Passed in March and December 2020, both bills drew backlash from Republicans and Trump for massive spending projects that weren't related to the pandemic, including $676 billion for national defense in the March CARES Act or $400 million for a diary program in the December measure.

Democrats were largely criticized for including provisions unrelated to the pandemic in both bills, but some, including a tax deduction that allowed businesses to deduct 100 percent of their meal expenses, were championed by Republicans.

For Biden's stimulus bill, most of the Republican ire has been reserved for a handful of left-sounding priorities: More than $110 million for California's Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Another $1.5 million for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway to Canada. And additional relief funding for struggling minority farmers, Native American tribes and artists.

Democrats have defended those efforts as still being linked to COVID because tolls are down on roadways and public transit due to the pandemic. The other pots of money are meant to provide equity to communities hit harder by the health effects of the disease and the coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Additionally, Republicans have hammered the bailouts for state and local governments and the fact that the bill doesn't require schools to reopen to get the additional cash, which is meant to help them readjust to the pandemic through social distancing and other safety precautions.

Biden has repeatedly defended the size of the massive COVID relief package, comparing the effort to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus that was passed during President Barack Obama's administration, while Biden was vice president. Biden helped spearhead the 2009 stimulus package's passage.

"That was a big recovery package, roughly $800 billion," he said during a public address earlier this month. "But it wasn't enough — it wasn't quite big enough. It stemmed the crisis, but the recovery could have been faster and even bigger."

Citing that experience, key members of Biden's administration, as well as the president himself, have said they see no risk in "going too big" with the coronavirus relief package but they worry about it being "too small."

"The danger here isn't going too big," Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters at a recent event. "It's going too small and too slow."

Still, Republicans have pounced on key elements in the bill they say are questionable — hammering their message on social media, TV appearances and public events. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise labeled it a "liberal wish-list giveaway."

"We're pushing to expose just what is really in this bill," he told reporters Wednesday.

GOP officials have portrayed the California rail project as a personal pork project for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A top Democratic aide noted to Newsweek that the California transit project doesn't run through Pelosi's district, without providing additional comment.

The legislation, set for its first official House debate this week, is likely to be amended through the process and further when it makes it to the U.S. Senate, as lawmakers work to include their own pet projects and political agendas.

"The President's view is that this is a package that will help get the pandemic under control; it will help put people back to work," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday. "If somebody has a better idea, by all means, bring it forward. We have not seen one."

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The United States Capitol is seen on August 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty