Sen. Cory Gardner: ‘We have to take unprecedented action’ with COVID-19 relief bill

Greeley Tribune
March 26, 2020

By Cuyler Meade

After contentious debate in the United States Senate this week, Wednesday night, a unanimous compromise was struck, and a 96-0 vote brought financial relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis one step closer to reality.

Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner, was pleased with the effort by his colleagues to arrive at a workable agreement, which will provide a $1,200 dispersal to most individual tax-paying Americans (under a certain income threshold), as well as numerous reliefs for businesses.

“There was a three-pronged approach I had to this emergency,” Gardner said by phone Thursday afternoon. “First was addressing the emergency itself, what we need to do to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, providing resources, testing, protective equipment to our public health providers and communities. As we do that, we have to make sure individuals receive assistance and relief they need to get through this. And the third prong is we have businesses keeping people on payroll and paying these people, so we need to provide for them so we have an economy snapping back when this is all over.”

Gardner said he believes the $2 trillion bill the Senate passed Wednesday night does all that and a little more.

The senator called these measures, of admittedly enormous volume, were necessary.

“That unprecedented action to stop commerce requires unprecedented action by Congress to restart the economy, and make sure we have an economy to go back to,” Gardner said. “This is a challenge like we’ve never seen before.”

Gardner said that the legislation was extendable through legislative action if necessary, and that might be important. While typically a close ally of President Donald Trump’s, Gardner’s optimism didn’t quite mirror the Commander in Chief’s when the latter said he thought the country should be back up and running like normal by Easter.

“I think everybody wants this solved and to be out of this as quickly as we can,” Gardner said. “But we’ll have to follow public health experts and scientists. That will determine it. We’ll do everything we can to get out of this as quick as we can, but allow decisions to be made by public health experts. An important part of this bill passage is it gives people answers to some anxiety and uncertainty. They know they’ll have a way to pay rent, put food on the table, save their business. And because it’s in the bill, they’ll be able to follow the guidance and stay home.”

Gardner was among many Republicans who spoke out passionately on various platforms earlier this week when a first draft of the bill was blocked by Senate Democrats over differences in the provisions. Gardner in particular took to Twitter Monday in a fiery video, calling it “an outrage” that the Senate couldn’t figure this out, laying the blame at the feet of his across-the-aisle colleagues.

He was in much better spirits Thursday afternoon, but didn’t let pass the opportunity to reference his previous frustration.

“It should’ve passed days ago,” Gardner said Thursday. “The American people needed this days ago. I’m glad it’s done, and I’m glad it’s done 96-0. People recognize that nobody in America is cheering for a Republican or Democratic partisan fight. They’re affected in a way they’ve never been before by a virus they didn’t ask for. Congress shouldn’t be breaking its arm slapping itself on the back for getting this done.”

Senate Democrats maintained that the first draft of the bill would have disproportionately helped out corporate executives and shareholders, while not helping the American worker nearly enough, per a release from the Colorado Democratic party.

“(The) Senate Republican’s initial bill – which Gardner unwaveringly supported – included a $500 billion corporate slush fund giving (Treasury) Secretary (Steven) Mnuchin ‘nearly unchecked authority over the money,’” an emailed release from the party read. “(As well as) corporate bailouts with limited transparency, limited support for state and local governments’ health care systems, and $55 billion less for our starving hospitals, whose resources are being squeezed and are relying on donated supplies.”

A would-be Gardner opponent in the upcoming election, Democratic primary hopeful Andrew Romanoff, was underwhelmed with the dispensation.

“This pandemic will cost millions of lives and plunge our nation into an even deeper recession unless we take bold action now,” Romanoff wrote in an email statement. “That requires far more than a $1,200 check. It means putting our health care system and manufacturers on war footing; making testing and treatment free and available to all; requiring Americans to stay at home for all but essential activities; and sustaining families and small businesses throughout this crisis and the recovery that follows.”

Romanoff’s primary opponent and the Democratic frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, was more positive.

“This bill is a necessary step to getting resources to hospitals on the frontlines of this epidemic, helping working families pay their bills, and extending unemployment insurance to self-employed freelance and gig workers,” Hickenlooper wrote in a release. “Now we need to see how quickly we can get relief to the people who need it. There is far more to be done to slow the spread of, and recover from, this pandemic. Families need housing protections, rural communities need support as they combat the epidemic, and we need improved protections to make sure these resources go to small businesses and workers–not into the pockets of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. Congress needs to put partisanship aside and work together to deliver results for the American people.”

For his part, though, Gardner sounded pleased with where the bill landed.

Gardner did draw a hard line between this relief bill and the one that squeezed through the Senate during the Great Recession.

“I don’t think you can compare the two,” he said. “It’s an apples-to-oranges thing, because you had bad actors doing bad things that tanked the economy and asked for a bailout. This is something that people have done, businesses respected advice of mayors, governors, leaders, public health experts, to stop the spread and flatten the curve. They’ve taken unprecedented action, and we have to take unprecedented action.”

Gardner himself was quarantined for a fortnight after contact with an individual who’d tested positive for COVID-19, but he emerged from that quarantine Wednesday morning. Thursday, he affirmed he’d never had symptoms.

“Like millions of Americans have experienced, I was confined, in my case to a studio apartment,” Gardner said. “I did my best to learn technologies that only my 16-year-old seems to understand. But I got through it.

“We’ll all get through this together, but we’ve got to be united. I believe the House will follow the Senate, and people across Colorado are coming together, checking. on neighbors, we’re pulling through this. Maybe we need phase four, five, six of legislation to help down the road, but we’re united addressing this and getting America back on track.”

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