US Senate GOP tries to block states from spending some of their COVID relief cash •Nebraska Examiner

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday rejected efforts to roll back Treasury Department guidance on how state and local governments can spend money approved by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 46-49 vote on the Congressional Review Act resolution ended an effort by several GOP senators to block the Biden administration from changing the definition of “liability” as it limits state and local fiscal recovery funds and how to spend some of that money. Related to deadlines. ,

Missouri Republican Senator Eric Schmitt said during floor debate that the Treasury Department's change in guidance, which was issued in November, was an attempt to “quickly pressure” Congress.

“Treasury's attempted sleight of hand to keep COVID spending going is an insult to those who believe in Congress and our Constitution, as well as a complete abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Schmidt said.

The fund was intended for state and local governments to assist with “revenue shortfalls associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schmidt said, and the law specifically states that “all costs incurred with money from this fund will be reimbursed through Dec. 31.” “should be completed by.” 2024.”

The interim final rule that the Treasury Department issued around Thanksgiving extended that deadline by two years to account for “administrative and legal costs, such as compliance costs and internal control requirements,” he said.

“This rule ensures that funding goes not to bridges or broadband, but to bureaucrats,” Schmidt said.

Projects affected in many states

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden spoke against the CRA proposal during floor debate, saying it could affect 17 projects in Georgia, 160 in Michigan, 342 in Ohio, 50 in Arizona, 404 in Montana and 73 in West Virginia.

“Thousands of projects across the country may be closed. Tens or even hundreds of jobs lost,'' Wyden said. “This is one of the most unusual votes I've seen recently, a true head-scratcher.”

Wyden said he “sees no good reason for the United States Senate to step back from solid, bipartisan progress and for this House to act in a way that leaves much of our nation's infrastructure in a state of disrepair “

During a press conference before the vote, Schmidt said claims that the CRA proposal would impact projects already underway are false.

“Essentially in accordance with existing law, obligations made before the end of 2024 will be respected,” Schmidt said. “What it says is you can't extend it to '25 and '26. This was never the intention of Congress here.

Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall, also speaking at the GOP press conference, said the CRA proposal would set back about $13 billion and chalked it up to “illegal spending.”

“The clock is about to run out, but Joe Biden is once again trying to circumvent the law,” Marshall said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the spending from those laws would needs to be reduced.

Counties, cities protested

Schmidt introduced a two-page CRA proposal in February with Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Brown of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Bill Haggerty of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Cynthia Loomis of Wyoming, Marshall and Rick Did. Scott of Florida.

The National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the Government Finance Officers Association urged lawmakers to vote against the CRA in a written statement released Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“The $350 billion SLFRF provides $65.1 billion to every city and county in America, and through 2021, localities will be able to meet the unique needs of residents and support long-term economic prosperity,” the statement said. These vital resources have been used to

The three organizations wrote that the Treasury Department's interim final rule “recognizes the importance of flexibility in facilitating the effective rollout of recovery funds, including the ability to use funds for certain personnel costs and redeploying funds where needed.” Including our ability to enforce.”

The White House issued a statement of administration policy on Wednesday saying President Joe Biden would veto the CRA if it reached his desk.

“As a result, projects may be canceled midway, project management and oversight may be reduced, and costs may increase as state and local governments are forced to contract out programs,” the CRA proposal states.

“Almost all SLFRF funds are committed to projects, including infrastructure and disaster relief projects that are made eligible by bipartisan legislation,” SAP said. “SJ Res. 57 would create unnecessary uncertainty for recipients who are implementing projects, jeopardize ongoing critical work, and unduly hinder Treasury's ability to address ongoing implementation issues.

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