White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday attempted to spin President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pork-filled coronavirus relief plan, dubbed the American Rescue Plan. Even though more than one-third of the bill will be spent over the next decade, instead of immediately, Psaki said that's necessary for budgetary purposes.
"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that more than one-third of the total bill, $700 billion, would not be spent this year. It would be spent between 2022 and 2031," Fox News host Chris Wallace said. "So how does that qualify as COVID relief?"
According to Psaki, the focus of the bill is getting direct cash payments to Americans and the COVID vaccine distributed.
"People also have to plan. Schools have to plan to reopen, they need to do budgetary planning over the course of years, businesses need to do that as well," Psaki explained. "So this package is, of course, meant to provide immediate direct relief but also provide a bridge to help us get through this crisis."
Wallace pointed out that schools would receive $170 billion but the Congressional Budget Office says 95 percent of the money will be spent between 2022 and 2028, not immediately. The bill would also include $480 million for arts, humanities, museums, and libraries.
"Again, what does that have to do with emergency COVID relief and getting kids back into school this year?" the Fox News host asked.
"90 percent of this bill goes to address the twin crises we're facing right now, Chris, which is getting the pandemic under control and helping the American people go back to work, helping them get the relief they need to get through this period of time," she said. "Schools are like businesses, Chris. They need a budgetary plan over a period of time. Some have to frontload changes, whether it's to their facilities, or ensuring that if they have to hire additional teachers or bus drivers–"
"But we're talking about a decade," Wallace chimed in.
"Well, they have to plan over a period of time," she retorted. "I'm sure I don't want my kids going to school where they have to fire teachers next year or do the facility upgrades, I should say, necessary in order to ensure they're going to school safely."
Fox News' Chris Wallace presses Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki on how much of the $1.9 trillion of wish list spending won't be spent until years after 100% of Americans are set to be vaccinated: “we’re talking about a decade from now”pic.twitter.com/3ZZ6CTn1eG— Tommy Pigott (@TCPigott) February 28, 2021
The House passed the bill early Saturday morning, predominantly along party lines. Two Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (ME) and Kurt Schrader (OR), voted in opposition to the bill. Golden took issue with the non-COVID-related pork found in the package.
The bill is expected to have an uphill battle in the Senate, particularly with the minimum wage increase tied to the relief package. Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have both said they take issue with the minimum wage increase being part of the COVID relief package.
There is also the issue of Senate parliamentarian saying it violates the budget reconciliation process.