News & Politics

10 Pet Projects in Pelosi's $3T 'Democratic Wish List' Coronavirus Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. listens to questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

After delaying the House of Representatives meeting for weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled a $3 trillion coronavirus bill in a conference call on Tuesday. Politico had predicted the bill would be a “Democratic wish list filled up with all the party’s favored policies,” and that “neither this bill nor anything resembling it will ever become law.” Even so, the speaker’s efforts recall Democrats’ continued attempts not to let a crisis go to waste.

Pelosi’s $3 trillion bill, dubbed the HEROES Act, provides nearly $1 trillion for states, cities, and tribal governments to avert layoffs and another $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, the Associated Press reported. It offers $1,200 direct cash payments to individuals, up to $6,000 per household, and directs $75 billion for coronavirus testing.

Yet the bill also includes a broad swath of Democratic pet projects. Politico reported that the HEROES Act is “expected to include a slew of liberal priorities left out of previous bills — cash for state and local governments, rent and mortgage relief, hazard pay for front-line workers and expanded mail-in voting programs.”

Analysts sleuthing through the package have found many pet projects smuggled in.

1. Repealing parts of the Trump tax cuts.

The bill would eliminate the limitation on deductions for state and local taxes, a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that hurt states with high taxes. Kyle Pomerleau, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), highlighted the change.

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2. Releasing prisoners

The HEROES Act would require the release of prisoners who are older than 50, have health problems, or are up for release within a year into “community supervision,” Politico‘s Alice Miranda Ollstein noted. It would also suspend cash bail requirements for pre-trial detainees.

3. Delaying a coronavirus public health corps

Ollstein also reported that the HEROES Act “leaves out a bipartisan provision that would have created a public health corps similar to Americorps to do testing/contact tracing/vaccinations. Instead, the bill authorizes a *study* of whether to create such a program.” This is not a wish-list item per se, but it seems likely Democrats will use this as a bargaining chip to force their other priorities.

4. Tying Trump’s hands on inspectors general

The bill supposedly focused on coronavirus relief also aims to tie President Donald Trump’s hands when it comes to removing the partisan inspectors general who have undermined the administration from within.

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5. Student loan forgiveness

Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at the left-leaning think tank Demos, reported that the HEROES Act would cancel federal student loan debt for nearly 16 million borrowers. A summary of the bill published by Politico explains that the bill “provides up to $10,000 in debt relief to be applied to a private student loan” and it “provides full student loan relief to borrowers who attended an institution that, according to findings made by the Department of Education on or before the enactment of this Act, made a false or misleading job placement representation.”

Whether or not Huelsman is correct, these student loan provisions amount to a tremendous bailout.

6. “Environmental justice grants”

The HEROES Act includes “$50 million for environmental justice grants, including investigating links between pollution exposure and the transmission and health outcomes of coronavirus in environmental justice communities.” What does that even mean? This green gobbledygook seems a convenient excuse for shoveling more money to the green industrial complex.

7. Voting by mail for the 2020 election

The HEROES Act includes a large section stipulating that states implement early voting and vote-by-mail for the November 2020 election. As J. Christian Adams reported, leftist foundations have bankrolled efforts to force national changes to a vote-by-mail system that left-leaning officials could use to essentially rig elections toward Democrats.

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8. LGBT training

The HEROES Act also requires the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse to “submit a report to Congress that details a strategy for offering support or providing technical assistance for training programs for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline counselors to increase competency in serving LGBTQ youth.”

Why this focus on this particular interest group in the middle of a pandemic? It seems Democrats are trying to use the crisis to further their sexual revolution.

9. Hate crimes act

The HEROES Act also includes the “Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act,” S.2043. When Democratic senators introduced the bill last year, they cited inflated hate crimes numbers from the scandal-plagued hate-for-pay smear group the Southern Poverty Law Center.

10. Perverse incentive unemployment checks

Last, but certainly not least, the HEROES Act would extend the $600 per week in extra unemployment payments that have provided an incentive for Americans not to return to work during the coronavirus crisis. The previous stimulus, the CARES Act, provided an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits, making unemployment checks larger than salaries in many cases. Employers attempting to reopen or bring their businesses back to full strength have reported that workers are hesitant to come back to work because they make more money on unemployment.

A Heritage Foundation study found that the increased unemployment checks will cost the economy 13.9 million jobs and $1 trillion in lost GDP because workers have a perverse incentive not to return to work. Democrats are trying to extend this horrendous program in the HEROES Act.

“This bill is a partisan wish list full of outrageously unrelated items. As a country we must stay focused on reopening safely, enabling American society to rise up again and drive the economic recovery,” Romina Boccia, a budget scholar at the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement on the bill.

It is likely there are even more pet projects in the bill yet to be revealed.

Rather than supporting a bipartisan relief bill that would help Americans struggling with the coronavirus crisis, Pelosi has once again shown her preference to capitalize on the crisis by pushing her pet projects. In doing so, she echoed Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and many others urging Democrats to take advantage of the suffering of millions of Americans. Despicable.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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