Rep. Pocan, other Wisconsin lawmakers weigh in on Covid-19 relief legislation

MADISON, Wis. — A $900 billion bill package that would provide pandemic relief to the unemployed, businesses, and more while an additional $1.4 trillion in legislation would keep key federal agencies open through September 2021 hangs in the balance Tuesday evening after passing both houses of Congress on bipartisan margins Monday night. President Trump, who had previously signaled his willingness to sign the bill, said Tuesday evening in a video that he wanted higher stimulus checks.

Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan, representing Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional district, sat down with News 3 Now to discuss the legislation on Tuesday. None of Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers voted for the bill, criticizing its contributions to the national debt and the matter of hours lawmakers had to review the 5,600 page document before voting on its provisions. (Neither U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) or Republican Rep. Bryan Steil were available for interviews Tuesday.)

When asked about the time frame lawmakers had to review the bill before it passed the House on Monday evening and the Senate shortly thereafter, Rep. Mark Pocan said the debate should center on the product rather than the process. While he did not specifically say how much of the bill he had been able to review himself, he said many of the provisions had already arisen in past legislative proposals from May and the fall.

“I’m not surprised by much of what’s in the bill. I think the hard part when you have a bill this big, there’s going to be some things that we didn’t know about that that were in there,” he said. “And unfortunately that process has happened since I’ve been in Congress.”

The bill combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

“I think the biggest drawback is that some of this is just not robust enough, and we’ll probably have to revisit it and go through another long debate in order to do that.”

Rep. Pocan says a first priority in January will be to start work on a new bill under the Biden administration, a process that hangs under the question mark of which party will gain control of the Senate after the Georgia runoff elections on January 5.

“There are people unemployed still at no fault of their own, there’s small businesses that have lost demand at no fault of their own,” Pocan noted. “We need to help renters with assistance and eviction protections, we need to make sure that we’re getting money out for vaccines and education, and there’s a lot of other things in there that really ultimately at the end of the day will help some people who are hurting the most because of Covid.”

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D)

In a statement released Monday, Sen. Baldwin–who was not available for an interview Tuesday–said she was voting for the legislation because “Wisconsin needs help and it’s essential that Congress provide some now before the end of the year.” Sen. Baldwin noted that the work needed to continue in January under the Biden administration to continue providing federal support to the state.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) 

Sen. Johnson was one of six senators voting no on the bill, citing its massive spending contributing to a rising national debt and the time lawmakers had to review the bill as significant concerns.

“This monstrosity was 5,593 pages long, and passed only nine hours after the Senate first saw it,” Johnson said in a statement. “It will be weeks, maybe months, before we begin to understand all that has been included. I simply could not support this dysfunction, so I voted no.”

Wisconsin’s U.S. Representatives

All five Republican Congressmen voted against the bill in the House of Representatives, which passed on a 359-53 bipartisan vote. All three Wisconsin Democrat representatives voted for the bill.

“Congress is broken and this latest charade epitomizes the dysfunction in Washington. Speaker Pelosi gave us roughly six hours to read a 5,600 page bill spending trillions of dollars,” U.S. Representative Bryan Steil from Janesville said in a statement. “The bill is far too broad and falls short of providing targeted relief to those who are struggling. We can do better.”