Remarks during House debate on COVID-19 appropriations bill
Excerpts of remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the House of Representatives during debate on COVID-19 appropriations bill—February 26, 2021:
An analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget shows that approximately $1 trillion of previously appropriated COVID-19 relief funds have not been spent.
Let me say that again, Madame Speaker, about a trillion dollars appropriated by Congress for COVID relief has not been spent.
Yet today, the House will vote on spending an additional $1.9 trillion.
Without so much as a single congressional hearing held with expert witnesses—including top officials in the Biden Administration—to probe the what, why and how much, the House will likely approve this massive spending package without serious scrutiny.
I’m committed and want to work in a bipartisan way to ensure that the federal government’s ongoing response to the pandemic is both robust and responsible.
With more people getting vaccinated—meaning fewer infections and many lives saved—it’s now possible to hope that we might soon see some improvement in the economy. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for example, projected in its February 1 report that real GDP will return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of this year, 2021—meaning jobs and renewed economic security.
Last year, I strongly supported, and Congress passed five bipartisan COVID funding relief bills that were signed into law—totaling $4.1 trillion.
That included $458 billion for stimulus checks to individuals, $586 billion for expanded unemployment benefits, $68.9 billion for nutrition programs and a whopping $1.47 trillion for grant programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses and others retain and pay their employees during the shutdown.
I would note parenthetically, that as a lawmaker who absolutely thrives on constituent casework, my staff and I have helped solve thousands of problems faced by the people in my district including facilitating medicines to patients made severely ill by the coronavirus, PPE for health workers and first responders, PPP for our small businesses and nonprofits and more. My staff and I have left no stone unturned in helping more than 1,500 people in my district who have faced unconscionable delays—even denials—in obtaining the unemployment compensation they are entitled to under congressionally appropriated COVID funding laws. Implementation of unemployment compensation by the State of New Jersey has been profoundly disappointing.
Madame Speaker, the public-private sector effort to swiftly create safe and effective vaccines to protect against COVID has no parallel in history.
That’s what Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, recently said when asked by an Axios reporter what the Trump Administration got right in the effort to fight COVID-19 as he gushed about both the efficacy and unprecedented speed in approving and disseminating lifesaving vaccines.
Dr. Collins praised Trump’s Operation Warp Speed and said they brought all parts of government together in an “unprecedented way to test up to six vaccines in rigorous trials”.
He said “That would not be the way things are traditionally done” and added: “the fact that we in December had not one but two vaccines that had gone through trials of at least 30,000 participants and had been judged safe and effective by a very rigorous and very public FDA process, is just breathtaking.”
Meanwhile, Madame Speaker, among the more than 200 Republican amendments to the pending legislation that the Democrat leadership rejected, was a proposal to increase funding for CDC COVID vaccine activities by $2 billion and earmarking $1 billion of that for teachers and school personnel. Another amendment would have earmarked $10 billion—out of $46 billion—for testing for teachers and school personnel. That too was rejected.
Prioritizing teacher vaccinations will likely help keep teachers COVID-19 free and get the schools open.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, only about 5 percent of the school money designated for K-12 in the new bill will actually be distributed in 2021—the rest will be spent in the outyears, between 2022 and 2028.
Earlier this month, our bipartisan group, the Problem Solvers Caucus, released the “Defeating COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Package” with $160 billion for vaccines, testing, PPE, rebuilding our National Strategic Stockpile and other efforts so that we can ensure that more people are protected.
We asked the House leadership that these bipartisan priorities be moved quickly and separately. That didn’t happen.
Finally, in a radical departure from all previous COVID-19 relief laws—the bill before us today mandates taxpayer funding for abortion on demand.
Today, the Rules Committee refused to allow a vote on the McMorris Rogers-Foxx-Walorski amendment—cosponsored by 206 members—to ensure that taxpayers aren’t forced to subsidize abortion.
Madame Speaker, in his inauguration speech, President Biden said that “the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer”.
The noble dream of “justice for all” however will never be achieved if a whole segment of society is legally ignored, trivialized, dehumanized and discriminated against because of where they live—in their mothers’ wombs—and how small and defenseless they are.
Where is the empathy for the battered baby-victim?
The science of human development has not changed—and, thanks to ultrasound, unborn babies are now more visible than ever before.
Growing numbers of Americans are shocked to learn that the methods of abortion include dismemberment of a child’s fragile body including decapitation and that drugs like RU 486 starve the baby to death before he or she is forcibly expelled from the womb.
We know that by at least twenty weeks unborn babies killed by abortion experience excruciating suffering and physical pain. And that until rendered unconscious or dead by these hideous procedures, the baby feels every cut.
All that will be subsidized by taxpayers if this bill remains unchanged.
Mr. Biden once wrote to constituents explaining his support for laws against funding for abortion by saying it would “protect both the woman and her unborn child… I have consistently—on no fewer than 50 occasions—voted against federal funding of abortion” he said ”…those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.”
According to public opinion polls most Americans agree as well—58% according to the most recent Marist poll— that taxpayers should not be compelled to fund abortion.
Madame Speaker, lives, as you surely know, have been saved by the Hyde Amendment,. More than twenty peer reviewed studies show that more than 2.4 million people are alive today in the United States because of Hyde—with about 60,000 children spared death by abortion every year.
Over 2.4 million people who would have been aborted instead survived because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise and their mothers instead benefitted from prenatal healthcare and support.
Abortion violence must be replaced with compassion and empathy for women and for defenseless unborn babies. We must love them both.
These children need the President of the United States and Members of Congress to be their friends and advocates—not powerful adversaries.