House Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process to advance Biden’s COVID aid package

The budget reconciliation process has become the go to route to get some big dollar moves through Congress. Given tight political margins, lawmakers used it to approve tax legislation and the Affordable Care Act. Now, House Democrats are using it to advance President Biden’s $2 trillion dollar COVID aid package.

During the House Agriculture Committee’s official reconciliation business meeting, lawmakers considered $16.1 billion dollars in funding for multiple ag programs. Chairman David Scott told members that investing in rural communities has to be a priority.

According to Scott, “This is where agriculture is, in the rural areas. We have to give the proper tax incentive to keep as many of the businesses within the food assembly line in these areas. We’ve also got to stop just talking about broadband for rural areas and put the money in there to get broadband.”

The package also includes a historic effort to support black farmers.

“And so, I’m asking all of my colleagues to support the $5 billion dollars in this package to put our black farmers and other farmers of color who have suffered mightily under this pandemic on better footing,” Scott adds.

However, Republican ranking member, Glenn Thompson pushed back saying that Democrats were taking a partisan approach on the package.

“Rather than spending time to work with Republicans, the democratic leadership in the House and Senate are abusing the reconciliation process to jam through a very narrow partisan agenda with the barest of majorities,” Rep. Thompson states. “Unfortunately, this approach is now being adopted by this committee.”

He says that the committee should be taking a closer look at how USDA has used funds already provided, before moving forward with more dollars.

“Over the past year, USDA has allocated more than $72 billion dollars of assistance to hungry families, distressed producers, and shattered communities, and yet, USDA has obligated roughly only 60 percent of those funds that we have provided,” Thompson notes. “To make matters worse, the Biden administration has frozen the additional CFAP assistance that Congress provided in December.”

Congressman Thompson called for the committee to hold a hearing for the USDA to account for unspent COVID-19 funding.