By Alice M. Evans, Ph.D.

This is addressed to Senators Leahy and Sanders and Representative Welch.

Information that some 82% of the benefits of the recent federal stimulus package may go to persons with annual income of over $1 million (through removal of a previous limit on “pass-through” expenses that can be deducted from such persons’ federal income tax returns) has left me aghast. There’s corruption in the current administration (What’s new about that?) and in congress (ditto), but this latest discovery leads me to write with these questions:

  1. Did any Republican senators vote against or (if there was not a vote on this particular provision of the law) even speak out in opposition to this provision? If so, who were they?
  2. Did any Democratic or Independent senators vote against or speak in opposition? And, if so, who were they?
  3. 3. Did the House of Representatives have an opportunity to read and pass on this provision? (The sparse news coverage I’ve seen – internet postings from Daily Kos and Common Dreams – refers only to Senate Republicans “sneaking this provision into” the coronavirus relief bill. But my understanding of bills moving through the Legislature has been that when a change is proposed to a bill already passed in one house, it must be taken up by a conference committee. If that is true, and the bill had previously passed in the House of Representatives, how could such a major feature [permitting diversion of funds intended for individual and family relief in the current health/economic crisis] not require acceptance in the House?)
  4. If the task of reading the huge stimulus bill (including this provision) prior to your voting on it was delegated by any of you to one or more members of your staffs, as seems likely, did you receive memoranda from, or perhaps have conversations with, such staff about this provision before you cast your votes? In other words, can you claim ignorance of this incredibly corrupt diversion of the funding from its intended relief targets?

It may be too much for me to expect responses from you on “How did this happen?” but I do insist on statements from you three, with respect to actions you will take (or may very recently have taken) to undo this diversion from many millions of needy Americans. With 22 million claims filed so far for unemployment benefits and videos making the rounds of thousand-car lines with citizens waiting for hours in some cities to receive paltry grocery supplies from charitable organizations, what will you do to amend the act retroactively so that the money goes where it’s desperately needed?

And, on a related topic, how is it that as of April 16 (per a Common Dreams posting that day), there has been only one individual appointed to a supposed five-member committee charged with oversight of the coronavirus relief package? Congressional leaders of both major political parties were supposed to fill those seats. When may I expect to see the names of the five appointees?

So far, the sole appointed member of the Congressional Oversight Commission, Bharat Ramamurti, has acted admirably, writing to Federal Reserve Chair Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin demanding that the names of corporations receiving bailout monies, and how each is using those monies, be made public. Will you be supporting that demand?

I respectfully urge a prompt reply from each of you.

Cc: U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, OH; U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, CT; U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, CT; U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, OR; U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, MA; U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, MN; U.S. Senator Ron Whyden, OR; U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, UT; Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, TX; U.S. Representative Justin Amash, MI; U.S. Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, CT; U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva, AZ; U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, IL.

Alice Evans lives in Waitsfield.