Peterson explains vote for HEROES Act, 4 other Ag committee members against
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., explained in news release that he voted Friday for the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) Act because “it provides much-needed support that I secured for agriculture producers and it will fund critical services for local government,” while four freshman Democrats on his committee explained why they voted against it.
Peterson did not issue a statement through the committee he chairs, but posted a lengthy statement on his personal congressional office website, citing the resources the bill would provide to improve testing and tracing for the coronavirus as a top reason for voting for the bill.
But he added, “While I do have serious concerns with some of the provisions that will never survive negotiations with the Senate, it was important to advance many of the positive aspects included in the bill to address this crisis.”
Peterson outlined the agricultural and broadband internet access provisions in the bill:
Emergency Relief for Farmers and Livestock Producers:
▪ “Provides emergency assistance to producers who have depopulated livestock and poultry due to processing shut-downs and back-ups resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
▪ “Establishes supplemental margin coverage for dairies based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage production history
▪ “Provides a premium discount for operations that commit to participating in Dairy Margin Coverage for 2021–2023
▪ “Provides direct support for renewable fuel plants affected by COVID-19
▪ “Provides $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers whose commodities were impacted by COVID-19 related market disruptions
▪ “Expands the Emergency Soil Health Incentive Pilot Program to allow producers to enroll land in a three-year contract with an option to receive an up-front payment
▪ “Provides $300 million to support improved animal health surveillance and laboratory capacity
Expanding Broadband Access — “Provides a much needed investment in expanding our broadband network to help our students and economy while many work and study from home.
▪ “$1.5 billion to close the homework gap by providing funding for wi-fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs.
▪ “The bill authorizes $2 billion for a temporary expansion of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program to partially subsidize their health care providers’ broadband service and increases the broadband subsidy rate from 65% to 85%.”
Meanwhile, of the 14 House Democrats who voted against the bill, four were freshman members of the House Agriculture Committee.
Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico explained why they voted against it.
Axne said, “While this legislation includes critical assistance for Iowa’s hospitals, schools, homeowners and renters, state and local governments, and families who are still feeling the burdens of this public health crisis, I am deeply troubled by numerous provisions in this bill that could see large amounts of taxpayer dollars allocated to helping those who are not hurting at all.”
“I could not in good conscience vote to accept this Washington gamesmanship, or vote to approve unrelated wastes of taxpayer dollars, while Iowa sees its COVID-19 case rates climbing and parts of my district become a national hotspot. I will always stand up to anyone — even my own party — when it comes to doing what’s right for Iowa.”
The HEROES Act includes changes to eligibility for COVID-19 aid that could allow lobbying groups to claim taxpayer dollars. It also includes changes to the tax code that would provide benefits largely to high-income earners, a provision that Axne rejected last year, she noted in the news release.
But Axne added that the act includes two bills she introduced to help keep renters in Iowa’s rural communities and other Iowa families in their homes — the Protect Rural Renters Act and the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Support Act — and aid to the ethanol industry that she favors.
“I do not vote against these provisions and the others that I have fought for lightly. As Iowa continues to endure outbreaks of COVID-19, we need to see these provisions maintained as negotiations move forward with our Senate colleagues,” she said.
Finkenauer said, “In the days and weeks following passage of the CARES Act this spring, I listened to my constituents about the next steps in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. They asked for support for our firefighters, police and local governments; more help for families and frontline workers; expanded access to testing and PPE; and meaningful support for our main streets and the agricultural and biofuels economy.”
“While I fought to include these priorities in the HEROES Act, I could not support the version of the bill that came before the House today,” she added.
“The next federal COVID-19 relief package must be focused on helping families, workers, small businesses and local governments. It needs bipartisan buy-in, and should not be tied up with unrelated provisions. I came to Washington to get things done, and this legislation only serves to push real relief further down the road.”
Spanberger said, “As the shockwaves of this pandemic continue, I have a responsibility to be honest with the people of central Virginia, including those who are suffering, sick, losing their jobs, or losing their businesses.”
“In the face of this crisis, they expect our government to work together quickly to provide real relief for those who need it most. Unfortunately, many members of Congress — including some in my own party — have decided to use this package as an opportunity to make political statements and propose a bill that goes far beyond pandemic relief and has no chance at becoming law, further delaying the help so many need. Therefore, I will respectfully vote against this bill.
“Since this crisis began, I’ve built bipartisan coalitions to advocate for the issues that matter most to the Seventh District — including direct funding for our counties, expanded high-speed internet access for our rural communities, and much-needed relief to our small businesses and individuals. These priorities mark a foundation for the House, Senate, and administration to find common ground.
“At this time, we must come together to build a targeted, timely relief package that avoids partisan posturing and instead prioritizes combatting our nationwide public health emergency, addressing catastrophic unemployment rates, and protecting the security of the next generation.”
Torres Small told the Albuquerque Journal, “I will continue to fight for direct funding for states, local communities, and tribal governments, as well as hazard pay for our essential workers on the front lines. But over $1 trillion of this bill was spent elsewhere. Hard times call for strong priorities, and Congress should put aside partisan politics to rebuild through smart infrastructure investments.”
Another freshman Democrat on the committee, Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., explained why he voted for the bill.
“This pandemic has hit New York the hardest and I’ve heard from workers, families, small businesses, and elected officials from both parties that we need relief,” Brindisi said.
“The HEROES Act is far from perfect, but it includes millions for our frontline heroes, our state and local governments, aid for our rural hospitals and small businesses, and puts more money in the pockets of upstate New Yorkers during the pandemic. During this difficult time, we need to work together for New York to start to try and come back from this. In order to do that, we need resources and this bill delivers.”
Before voting for the bill, Brindisi had joined with Democratic Reps. Joe Golden of Maine, Kendra Horn and Max Rose of New York in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging her to enter into bipartisan negotiations.
Golden and Horn voted against the bill but Brindisi and Rose did not.
Another Democratic freshman member of the committee who voted for the bill, Rep. Antonio Delgado of New York, explained in an opinion article he co-wrote that local governments in his district need the aid or they will have to cut off services.
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