Throughout the response to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, I have been working diligently with my colleagues in Congress, as well as my contacts at all levels of government, to ensure that resources, assistance, and funds reach folks here in the Commonwealth. State and local governments have been pivotal to Coronavirus response and the federal government has been working to supply as much aid as possible.
Across all four phases of Coronavirus relief legislation so far, Congress has focused on comprehensive aid to the American families, to small businesses, hospitals and to state and local governments. Those efforts include more than $765 billion in Coronavirus-related funding supporting state and local communities. Just this week, we learned that Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is receiving an award of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds through the CARES Act. DRPT successfully completed their grant application and is now being awarded $32,247,880. DRPT will use the grant funds to support for operating, administrative, and preventive maintenance costs for rural transit agencies throughout Virginia in order to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 public health emergency. This is aid getting where it needs to go.
However, this week, further aid was stalled by House Democrats. Friday, the House voted on legislation that was just released by Speaker Pelosi earlier this week; legislation that was drafted behind closed doors, is more than 1,800 pages, and costs over $3 trillion. This legislation did not go through the regular congressional committee process and reads more like a partisan wish list than realistic aid to the American people. Many of the policy provisions of this misguided bill predate the pandemic and are not targeted at fighting COVID-19. Americans deserve a government focused on defeating this virus and getting folks back to work.
If that wasn’t enough, Friday, House Democrats changed over 200 years of precedent. Members are now no longer required to be present in Washington to cast their vote on behalf of the people they represent. The resolution passed yesterday creates a dangerous new definition of “voting by proxy” that runs counter to past House committee precedent, current Senate committee practice, and the Constitution. A move like this should only be done with bipartisan consensus. A 2/3 threshold is appropriate to demonstrate whether such a drastic change actually meets this test – House Democrats denied the American people that.
We need to go back to the drawing board and put together a package that will receive bipartisan support. Members need to return to Washington to do the work of the people. Our job is to help show America that we have begun a path to safely and smartly resuming normal life – holding virtual hearings and proxy voting does not do that. Congress should be leading the way—we should not be the last to come back.
As we move forward with COVID-19 response and recovery, I will continue to focus on getting Americans back to work and defeating this virus by incentivizing rehiring and removing regulatory barriers to job creation, protecting small businesses, and connecting our rural communities without high-speed internet access.