‘They took care of their billionaire buddies’: Republican senator who voted for Trump cuts says there’s ‘not enough money’ for coronavirus victims

‘There’s not enough money to help everybody hurt when you shut down the government’

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 11 May 2020 21:53 BST
Lamar Alexander says 'not enough money to help everybody hurt'

Congress will not be able to appropriate more money to help everyone affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a top Republican senator said on Sunday.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said: “There’s not enough money to help everybody hurt when you shut down the government.”

Mr Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee emphasised the need to reopen the economy via a system of “test, trace, isolate, treatments and vaccines”.

“We have to reopen the economy, we have to do it carefully, we have to let people go back to work and earn a living,” he said.

He added: “And I don’t see us being able to appropriate much more money to help provide a counter to that.”

Mr Alexander’s remarks, made in a segment of the show, focused on testing capacity, come as Congress continues to debate the next stage of coronavirus stimulus relief.

With unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, prior measures have fallen short of matching the economic impact of the pandemic.

The comments sparked outrage, both in light of the Trump administration’s tax cuts, which Mr Alexander supported, and because Congress can appropriate any funds it sees as necessary.

Progressive group The Working Families Party accused Republicans of taking care of “their billionaire buddies and Wall Street bankers”, but now saying there is “‘not enough’ left to help you and your family”.

“It’s a lie,” the group added on Twitter.

Stephanie Kelton, professor of economics at Stony Brook University, said: “The appropriations pen is out of ink? I can’t believe we’re hearing, ‘We’re out of money’ in the early stages of a crisis. AGAIN.

“The truth is, Congress can appropriate whatever it chooses. It literally cannot run out of money.”

Mr Alexander said that a focus on testing remains vital until a vaccine or other effective treatment can be developed.

He said: “If you take a test and you know that you don’t have Covid-19, and you know that everybody around you took a test that same day, you’re going to have enough confidence to go back to work and back to school.”

The US has 1.37 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and has recorded 80,653 deaths as of Monday.

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