Below is an update on issues in Congress this past week, as well as the latest on COVID-19 and vaccination efforts in North Carolina. 

Democrats Prepare to Ram Through $1.9 Trillion in “COVID-19 Relief” Spending

Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed a partisan Budget Resolution that could allow Democrats to fast-track $1.9 trillion in new spending on measures the Biden Administration proclaims are “COVID-19 relief”.  Passage of this measure, which was approved by the Democrat-led Senate early Friday morning, allows Democrats to pass their plan using what’s called budget reconciliation, a procedural move that enables the Senate to pass budget-related legislation with just 51 votes, instead of the usual 60 votes.  Under the rules, this mechanism can only be used for revenue, mandatory spending or debt-related items.  It cannot be used for policy or general appropriations.  Any member in the Senate can object to a provision.  If an objection is made, it goes to the Senate Parliamentarian for a ruling.  Should the Democrat majority decide that they don’t like the ruling of the parliamentarian, they can vote to override.  But should they do that, it would break Senate precedent.  (The Senate is largely governed by precedent.)  

Essentially, this means that instead of partnering with Republicans and crafting bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation as has been the case up to now, the Democrats and the White House have opted to go it alone and pursue a purely partisan plan that caters to liberal special interests.  It’s the latest disappointing sign that President Biden’s hopeful inaugural address, focused on unifying a divided nation, was all talk and no action. 

The details of the Democrats’ proposal are still being worked out amongst themselves.  But you can be sure it will include bailouts for blue states and big cities, a one-size-fits-all minimum wage hike that could kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, and billions more for school systems with no requirement they buck the teachers’ unions and re-open for in-person instruction.  All of these provisions would violate the rules of budget reconciliation so it is very possible most of their provisions get struck down by the Senate parliamentarian.  However, as I mention above, the Senate Democrats could choose to overrule him and break Senate precedent.  If they do that, the game is over.  What goes around comes around, and they will regret that decision should they do it. 

As a reminder, just six weeks ago, Congress approved another $900 billion in recovery and relief funding.  In total, more than $1 trillion has not even been spent yet, including some funds authorized by the CARES Act, passed almost a year ago.  In the past 11 months, the five major rescue packages passed and signed into law by President Trump total approximately $4.5 trillion to help American families and communities weather the crisis and combat the virus – by far the largest federal response to any crisis of any kind since World War II.  Under the Democrat plan, we’d be adding almost $2 trillion more.

Democrats hope to ram through this latest round of spending as early as the end of this month.  Stay tuned for more updates.

Additional Updates from D.C.

Two other matters of note this week:

vote was taken in the House Republican Conference to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her position in our leadership as Conference Chair after her vote in favor of impeaching President Trump following the events of January 6.  I voted against impeachment, and I also opposed the effort to remove Rep. Cheney from her leadership position.  My first thought: “What if the shoe were on the other foot?”

No member should be removed from a duly elected leadership post for the sole reasons of voting their conscience and making a declarative statement explaining their vote.  If I had been one of ten Republicans that stood up for President Trump, and the Republican Conference voted to remove me as the Conference Chairman as a result, would it be right?  Of course not.  Liz Cheney was overwhelmingly elected by the people of Wyoming with a 44 point margin in the 2020 election.  Any consequence of her vote and statements should be solely between her and the citizens she represents.

Additionally, Democrats forced a vote on the House floor that removed freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from her committee assignments due to comments and social media posts she made before coming to Congress.  I voted against this measure.  Representative Greene’s controversial comments, which I certainly do not condone, have been in the public square for months and before her election to the House this past November.  The citizens of her district elected her by a wide margin — so wide, any fraud was a non-factor in the outcome.  At Wednesday's Republican Conference meeting she apologized for past remarks and stated that she has learned from those mistakes.  I take her at her word.  Second, and even more troublesome than any remarks that could be made by anyone, the Democrat Majority has taken the unprecedented step of removing a member from committees who has not violated one House rule.  This is a very dangerous and slippery slope.  From this point on, whoever has the majority will now have the ability to remove any member of the opposing party from a committee for any speech they deem inappropriate.

Let’s also look at this from another angle.  Did Republicans seek to strip the committee assignments of Ilhan Omar when she tweeted her anti-Semitic remark, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” or when Maxine Waters made hateful statements in reference to Trump Administration officials when we held the majority?  No, those statements were condemned but it would have been inappropriate for the opposing party to remove either of them from their committees.  That’s a matter for each respective conference to govern and for the voters to handle.  This all underscores a simple truth:  Our system of self-government only works if there is a moral and informed citizenry.     
 
North Carolina COVID-19 & Vaccination Update
 
Vaccines continue to be administered across North Carolina.  The virus continues to threaten lives, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.  There were 5,547 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide on Thursday.  2,523 individuals are currently hospitalized due to the virus though that number has been steadily declining since the start of the year. 
 
On the vaccine front, more than 1.25 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in N.C., of about 1.75 million that have arrived in North Carolina so far.  Another 280,000 doses have been allocated to North Carolina by the federal government and are awaiting delivery.  A portion of the doses that have arrived in North Carolina are reserved as second doses for individuals that have received their first.
 
Presently, North Carolina is vaccinating health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and individuals age 65 or older.  If you meet one of these criteria, you can use the state’s Find a Vaccine Location tool to find nearby vaccine providers, or you can also contact the COVID-19 vaccine help center at 888-675-4567 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. 
 
Note that vaccine supplies fall short of demand and the state reports that while you may be eligible to receive a vaccine, you may face long wait times or trouble making an appointment.  Persistence is key to getting an appointment.  
 
If you are unsure of what vaccine group you fall into, you can use this tool to help you make a determination.