Democrats slam Josh Hawley, Roy Blunt on I-44 billboard for opposing Joe Biden's aid bill
For the next month, people driving on Interstate 44 west of Kansas Expressway will see a billboard that reads "Help is here" with a list of three popular provisions of Biden's first legislative accomplishment as president: $1,400 direct payments, money for vaccine distribution, and aid for school reopening.
“Democrats passed this relief package because they knew help couldn’t wait,” DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said in a news release. “Now, we’re making sure every Missourian knows it’s no thanks to Senators Blunt and Hawley.”
The attack on Blunt and Hawley comes roughly a month after they joined the rest of the GOP in the Senate to oppose the bill, which Biden made his chief priority after taking office.
The Democrat-controlled Congress passed the plan anyway, and the president declared it “one more giant step forward” for the American public as it works to recover from the pandemic.
But Republicans like Blunt and Hawley saw little but irresponsible spending.
In a statement last month, Blunt blasted the bill for spending money on items that do not directly address the virus itself.
Indeed, while the bill spends some money on things like vaccine distribution, virus testing and contact tracing, the majority of the spending is aimed at helping the economy heal from the pandemic.
It extends a $300 supplement to unemployment payments through Sept. 6 and sends $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. Missouri is set to receive $2.8 billion.
The bill also includes tax credits for people with kids and boosts to child care subsidies, rent assistance and food stamps expected to lift millions of people out of poverty.
Blunt, who announced last month he will not seek re-election next year, also criticized Democrats for using a special maneuver to pass it with 50 votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
He said he and his colleagues tried to cut what they saw as unnecessary spending from the bill and focus more narrowly on reopening schools, but were ultimately rejected.
“This massive spending bill, and the partisan process by which it was passed, fails the American people," he said. "The bill is filled with things that have nothing to do with COVID-19 relief."
Hawley, for his part, blasted the plan for "shoveling money to blue states whose revenues are actually up" in an interview on Fox News.
The bill is sending money to some Democrat-led states that saw an increase in tax revenue last year, including California, Colorado, Washington and New Mexico, according to a recent analysis by the New York Times. It also sends money to Republican-led states that are in the hole, including Florida and Texas.
Hawley also criticized the bill for "funding abortion providers," presumably referring to a $50 million spending item for family planning projects.
At least one abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, has previously received family planning grants alongside state and local health departments, according to the Times.
Other Republicans also noted at the time of the vote that the economy was already showing signs of improvement without further aid.
Indeed, the most recent jobs report at the time showed the economy had put on 355,000 jobs in February as the national unemployment rate shrank to 6.2 percent.
The economy has improved even further since then, adding more than 900,000 jobs in March as vaccinations ramped up and officials eased restrictions on public life.
There are still pain points, though: The hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector remains down 3.1 million jobs from where it was in February 2020.
Despite the rancor, polling suggests most Americans currently support Biden's plan.
A recent Morning Consult survey indicated that 3 in 4 voters support the bill, including a majority of Republican voters nationally.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.