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Stefanik votes against Dems’ COVID aid bill

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, speaks at a press event in the parking lot of the High Peaks Distillery in Lake George in September. She announced small businesses throughout the North Country impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will soon be able to apply for a low-interest loan of up to $150,000. (Provided photo — Chad Arnold, The Post-Star)

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik voted against a second coronavirus stimulus package last week.

This bill, which passed the House mostly on party lines but is unlikely to pass in the Senate, would include a second round of stimulus checks, a renewal of $600-per-week unemployment benefits on top of state payments, and assistance for targeted fields including schools, restaurants and airlines.

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, voted against it Thursday because she said the bill is partisan. Specifically she mentioned “taxpayer-funded stimulus payments for illegal immigrants and releasing violent criminals from prison” as the reasons for her “nay” vote, according to campaign spokesperson Madison Anderson.

Millions of undocumented immigrants living in America pay their taxes each year using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The bill would expand the scope of who receives stimulus checks to include ITIN users.

Regarding releasing prisoners, Stefanik also made this claim about the original HEROES Act bill voted on in May, lacks context. The Democratic-proposed bill asks the federal Bureau of Prisons to move inmates who are vulnerable to the virus from prison to community supervision, but it specifically says this would exclude those who would pose a risk of violence to another person. Anderson previously said this is too high a bar for government prosecutors to meet and would, in effect, lead to violent inmates being released. (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article did not include this clarification paragraph.)

Democratic congressional candidate Tedra Cobb, a Democrat from Canton, smiles in Saranac Lake on Jan. 30. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Tedra Cobb, a Democrat from Canton Canton responded to Stefanik’s vote.

“Throughout this crisis, Elise Stefanik has politicized the pandemic for her own personal gain,” Cobb wrote in an email. “We are seven months into the worst healthcare crisis of our lifetime, and we still don’t have a realistic and consistent federal response. The next round of stimulus must include help for state and local government, aid for our schools and an extension of emergency unemployment benefits to help our families.”

Parties can’t agree

The House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion bill is known as HEROES 2.0 because it is a slimmer version of the $3 trillion HEROES Act they attempted to pass in the spring, which passed the House but not the Senate. This updated bill now moves to the Senate, where the Republican majority chamber is likely to vote it down again.

Republicans in both chambers have pushed for a much smaller stimulus package, around $1 trillion.

Stefanik also voted against the original HEROES Act but voted for the Republicans’ CARES Act, which eventually passed the Senate.

The House is now out of session until the third week in November, which means the American people do not have any federal funding assistance in sight as they continue to deal with the economic and health fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The passage of this bill appears to be largely symbolic for Democrats, who knew Republicans would probably never pass it.

Democrats blame Republicans for not compromising on the aid package. Republicans blame Democrats for presenting a “partisan wish list.”

“It is unfortunate that once again, Speaker Pelosi walked away from bipartisan negotiations with Republicans and brought a partisan bill to the Floor that has no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law,” Anderson wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, there was overwhelming bipartisan opposition to Pelosi’s partisan Heroes 2.0, including 18 Democrats who voted against it.”

Predictions proved wrong

When she was in Tupper Lake on Sept. 9, Stefanik said she had faith Congress could give Americans a second stimulus package.

“I feel confident that we will get to a bipartisan COVID relief bill,” Stefanik said at the time. “We need an additional stimulus package.”

The House returned to session Sept. 14 through Oct. 2. In that time the legislators reached an agreement on a bipartisan bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, but they could not create sure-fire legislation to assist the millions of Americans who are struggling through during a global pandemic with federal tax dollars.

Had things Stefanik wanted

In September, Stefanik said she wanted the stimulus bill to include direct funding for kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, which she said are spending more to change their operations.

The HEROES 2.0 bill includes $175 billion in coronavirus aid for K-12 schools along with funding to improve internet access for students and establish an education fund for governors.

Stefanik also said she wanted direct state and local funding, especially for counties, towns and villages, which she said “face significant fiscal challenges of no fault of their own.”

The bill includes giving $89.5 billion for counties; $62.65 billion directly to municipalities qualifying for housing and Community Development Block Grant funding; and $26.85 billion to municipalities that do not qualify for CDBG funding, which would be distributed through state governments based on population.

Stefanik supported the bill including “targeted additional stimulus checks to individuals and families.” The HEROES 2.0 bill targets middle- and low-income families, but Stefanik was not happy with including undocumented immigrants in the stimulus check program.

Stefanik also said she wanted the bill to fund a vaccine and distribution of that vaccine.

The bill included $20 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for research, development and procurement of vaccines.

“Rather than focusing on the areas of bipartisan policy agreement, Pelosi instead prioritized Far-Left provisions supported by Tedra Cobb like taxpayer funded stimulus payments for illegal immigrants and releasing violent criminals from prison,” Anderson wrote.

President Donald Trump, who recently contracted COVID-19, tweeted his support for a stimulus bill on Friday, asking legislators to work together.

“OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!” Trump wrote in a tweet.

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