Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) shared that the current COVID-19 relief bill is a bipartisan effort closer to $1 trillion. The senator explained in a press conference Thursday that the move is favored by Democratic legislators over efforts by House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“The good thing is that there are Democrats that have said to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer that they think it is wrong to hold out for a $3 trillion dollar deal, and saddle our future generations with that debt,” Blackburn said. “So they’re working with some Republicans on a bill that is closer to a trillion dollars. So, the bill that we as a Republican conference had agreed on was about a $600 billion bill.”
Senate Republicans have twice put forward a second pandemic relief bill. Blackburn explained that the latest bill would reposition unused money from the CARES Act. The senator added that there is $429 billion leftover from the Federal Reserves 13(3) Program.
“[B]ear in mind you’ve got that money that is left over from the CARES Act,” she said. “There is no reason, no reason not to take these points of agreement with plussing up unemployment insurance, doing a second round of PPP for businesses that are still distressed – there is no reason not to give that money out.”
Blackburn mentioned that her legislation, the EIDL Advance Protection Act, which ensures the $10,000 emergency loans for small businesses won’t negatively impact their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Blackburn also shared that they are making progress with legislation expanding telehealth. The efforts are part of the Senate’s bipartisan Rural Health Agenda. The senator mentioned that more than 60 telehealth services were included as part of the annual physician fee schedule, and that Vanderbilt University reported over 200,000 telehealth visits.
“We got word this week that CMS is going to continue for patients in Medicare. That’s a big win for our seniors. We hope that it will soon be even more widely available,” the senator said.
Then, Blackburn shared that the National Defense Authorization Act’s conference report would be signed that same day. She stated that the legislators expect to have the bill on the floor by next week.
“[W]e do have some big wins in there for our veterans, for Fort Campbell, and after that gets the final passage we look forward to talking more about that,” she said.
Blackburn mentioned further efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by reforming Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA). The senator was one of the leading proponents for instituting widespread reform. Blackburn shared that the legislation would likely appear on the floor next week.
Further pandemic-related measures that Blackburn reported will be advanced include Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution. When asked by reporters, Blackburn deferred to Governor Bill Lee’s office for a distribution plan.
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