• Brandon Colvin

Congresswoman Terri Sewell supports stimulus and COVID relief for Alabamians, by herself

The COVID-19 relief legislation has been yet another dividing line between politicians on Capitol Hill. Signed into law by President Joe Biden last Thursday, the American Rescue Plan narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote of 219-212. In the Senate, the vote followed a similar division along party lines—not a single Republican voted in favor of the legislation.

The divide was especially clear amongst Alabama's congressional delegation, with Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell, AL-07—Alabama's lone Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives—being the only legislator from Alabama to support COVID relief for residents of the Yellowhammer State.

“The American Rescue Plan supports working families by providing a direct stimulus payment of $1,400 to eligible individuals. This bill will also provide up to $472 million in direct funding for cities and counties in Alabama’s 7th District, which are in desperate need of funding and resources to fight the pandemic and distribute vaccines,” said Sewell in an official press release.

“These provisions, along with the creation of a $20 billion national vaccination plan, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, the New Markets Tax Credit and Unemployment Benefits, and expanded subsidies for the ACA Marketplace are essential to crush the virus and Build Back Better,” Sewell said.

Sewell's six fellow House members from Alabama's delegation all voted against the COVID relief bill. The Republican justification for their dissenting votes seemed to echo party-sanctioned talking points, as GOP members in the House and Senate described their dissatisfaction with the legislation using eerily similar language.

Congressional Republicans have been roundly criticized for their consistent support for initiatives and legislation that reduces tax burdens for wealthy individuals and corporations while opposing programs that offer financial assistance to Americans in need. The lack of GOP support for the American Rescue Plan, particularly in light of widespread Republican support for decreasing tax revenue via former president Trump's tax cuts, seems to continue a trend of conservative double standards on the issue of federal spending and revenue.

Representatives Barry Moore, AL-2, and Jerry Carl, AL-1, both characterized the American Rescue Plan as a "blue state bailout." Alabama's 5th District Representative, Mo Brooks, called the plan, “a debt junkie and Socialist ‘wish list’ of feel-good, short-sighted, do-nothing borrowing and spending that hastens American’s inevitable and dangerous insolvency and bankruptcy.”

Conservative Alabama Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, both voted against the $1.9 trillion pandemic spending. The Republican senators defended their rejection of the COVID relief funding largely on the basis of fiscal responsibility and accusations of partisan ideology.

The legislation spans 591 pages and earmarks funds for COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine distribution, and pandemic-related medical supplies. Also included in the bill is the approval of the much-debated $1400 stimulus checks alongside an extension to federal unemployment benefits as well as aid to state and local governments.

Senator Shelby, who will be retiring at the end of this year's term after 34 years on Capitol Hill, was unequivocal in his expression of dissatisfaction with the COVID relief bill. Incidentally, Representative Sewell has given some indication that she may run for Shelby's soon-to-be-vacant seat, which, if successful, would make her the only Black woman in the United States Senate.

“This legislation includes a host of non-COVID-related left-wing policies...Democrats are forcing a liberal wish list of pet projects through Congress that’s masked as a pandemic rescue package,” said Shelby.

Former Auburn football-coach-turned-politician, Tuberville was equally critical of what he described as "liberal relief" efforts embedded in the Democrat-backed COVID legislation.

"This bill is a broken promise to the American people, one that hides under the name of ‘COVID relief’ when it should actually be called ‘liberal relief.’ Instead of targeting funds to the people, communities, and businesses who actually need it, this bill sends billions to bail out poorly managed states and puts less than 1% of funding toward vaccines,” complained Tuberville.

The $1,400 COVID stimulus checks have already begun arriving via direct deposit for some eligible Americans. The new law also subsidizes healthcare for lower-income Americans allowing them to purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act at reduced costs. The updated changes to coverage will take place within the next few weeks. The American Rescue Plan also expands the Payroll Protection Program for eligible small businesses.

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