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Lamb Breaks With Democrats On Coronavirus Relief Bill He Calls 'Not Focused'

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Democrats in Congress passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill Friday, but without the support of western Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, one of just 14 House Democrats to oppose the bill.

In a statement, Lamb said that with 85,000 Americans already dead from the disease and more than 30 million unemployed, “We need to go back to the negotiating table immediately and work on a bill that can actually pass.”

The measure, House Resolution 6800, passed the House 208-199 but is expected to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. And indeed every House Republican but New York’s Peter King opposed it.

The bill contained roughly $1 trillion in support for reeling state and local governments, a second round of direct cash payments to citizens, plus increases in food stamp, unemployment, and housing benefits, and $75 billion for efforts to test for and track the virus. There were also other items high on Democrats’ agenda, like a provision guaranteeing every citizen the chance to vote by mail in the November election, and one allowing banks to offer financing to marijuana-related businesses in states where the drug is legal.

Congressman Mike Doyle, Lamb’s fellow western Pennsylvania Democrat, said the measure would “provide much-needed support to those who need it while we strive to return to a more normal life. I believe that we’d end up paying more in the long run – in money, in jobs, and in lives – if we don’t address this pandemic with an effective response up front.”

Local Republican Guy Reschenthaler, meanwhile, trashed the bill as “a 1,800-page socialist wish list” and said Democrats “should be ashamed of themselves for attempting to use a national crisis to jam through their socialist, left-wing agenda.”  Congressman Mike Kelly similarly called the bill a case of “political posturing’ and “a waste of valuable time.”

Lamb was also one of 13 Democrats to vote with Republicans on a prior “motion to recommit,” that would have scrubbed language allowing taxpayers – even those without social security numbers – eligible for payments. Republicans said the change would prevent undocumented workers from receiving benefits.

Lamb’s votes Friday came as little surprise. He’s running for re-election against Republican Sean Parnell in a swing district, and Republicans made little secret of their intention to use a vote for HR 6800 against moderate Democrats. In his statement, he said the bill was “not focused … was rushed to a vote too fast, and it doesn’t help us accomplish that core mission” of defeating the virus.

Lamb added that there was support in both parties for helping struggling Americans with cash support, and for helping to fund testing and local government operations. “Let’s fight this battle together on common ground,” his statement said.