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Pork City: The absolutely crazy stuff in the 5,593-page COVID bill no lawmaker read

"This isn't governance. It's hostage-taking," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Updated: December 22, 2020 - 2:46pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

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Congress on Monday passed a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package that was attached to a must-pass $1.4 trillion spending bill.

The vote was overwhelming in both chambers: The House passed the bill 359-53, the Senate by a 92-6 margin.

The Senate Historical Office says it's the longest bill they could find record of passing Congress, the Associated Press reported. 

Shortly before the vote, Sen. Rand Paul, who voted against the bill, wrote on Twitter: "Deficit busting bill will be 5,593 pages! If 250 words per page, then that's 1,398,250 words. If Congresspeople read at the American average of 300 words/min (a big assumption) then a Congressperson might read this in 4,660 minutes or 77.68 hours! (if no rest breaks)."

"I think if we provide everyone a paper copy we would have to destroy an entire forest," joked House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-Mass.).

That mean no one — no one — read the legislation before they voted on it. But since its passage, people have been poring over the massive bill and have found some remarkable items tucked inside.

"In the bill: hundreds of unrelated legislative items negotiated by leadership to win support from various constituencies," wrote the AP. "It includes extended tax breaks for the alcohol industry and motor speedways, comprehensive energy legislation, revised copyright rules, approval of two new Smithsonian museums and lessened penalties for the transportation of water hyacinths. There's also an entire section on Tibet, including a statement of U.S. policy on how to determine the country's next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the decriminalization of the use of the Swiss coat of arms."

Among the most controversial facets of the bill is $250 million in "investment aid" for the Palestinians and for encouraging Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in a provision titled the "Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act of 2020," named for the retiring New York Democrat.

But the bill will give eligible Americans just $600 apiece in relief cash — paid, of course, out of their own tax money. But unlike the last stimulus package passed in March, this time "mixed-status" households — which include illegal aliens — will not only receive payments, they can retroactively claim benefits they missed last time.

After the last relief bill passed, the Internal Revenue Service cut 153.1 million checks and direct deposits all the way through August, totaling $269.3 billion, the AP reported.

This time, though, foreign governments are getting billions of dollars.

Among the payouts: $1.4 billion for the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, $1.3 billion to Egypt, $700 million to Sudan, $135 million to Burma, $130 million to Nepal, and  $85 million to Cambodia. Israel will also haul in $500 million, and Ukraine will get nearly the same.

The bill also delivers $2 billion for the "Space Force," $4 billion for Navy weapons procurement, and $2 billion for Air Force missiles.

And the legislation will send at least $10 million to Pakistan for "gender programs."

Citizen Free Press pulled together a comprehensive list on expenditures in the bill:

  • $300,000,000 for Migrant and Refugee Assistance
  • $10,000 per person for student loan bailout
  • $100,000,000 to NASA
  • $20,000,000,000 to the U.S. Postal Service
  • $300,000,000 to the Endowment for the Arts
  • $15,000,000 for Veterans Employment Training 
  • $30,000,000,000 for the Department of Education stabilization fund
  • $200,000,000 to Safe Schools Emergency Response to Violence Program
  • $300,000,000 to Public Broadcasting 
  • $500,000,000 to Museums and Libraries
  • $720,000,000 to Social Security Administration
  • $25,000,000 for Cleaning supplies for the Capitol Building
  • $7,500,000 to the Smithsonian for additional salaries
  • $35,000,000 to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
  • $25,000,000 for additional salary for House of Representatives
  • $3,000,000,000 upgrade to the IT department at the Veterans Administration
  • $315,000,000 for State Department Diplomatic Programs
  • $95,000,000 for the Agency for International Development
  • $300,000,000 for International Disaster Assistance
  • $90,000,000 for the Peace Corps
  • $13,000,000 to Howard University
  • $9,000,000 Misc. Senate expenses
  • $100,000,000 to Essential air carriers 
  • $40,000,000,000 goes to the Take Responsibility to Workers and Families Act
  • $1,000,000,000 Airlines Recycle and Save Program 
  • $25,000,000 to the Federal Aviation Administration for administrative costs 
  • $492,000,000 to National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) 
  • $526,000,000 Grants to Amtrak 
  • $25,000,000,000 for Transit Infrastructure 
  • $3,000,000 Maritime Administration
  • $2,500,000 Public and Indian Housing 
  • $5,000,000 Community Planning and Development 
  • $2,500,000 Office of Housing

There were some odd things included, the AP wrote.

"One section repealed a variety of little-known criminal penalties for minor violations, including the transportation of the water hyacinths and the use of the Swiss coat of arms. The section also decriminalizes the unauthorized application of theft prevention decals or devices, and the unauthorized use of the 4-H Club emblem, the 'Smokey Bear' character, the 'Woodsy Owl' character or 'The Golden Eagle Insignia.'"

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted the procedure.

"This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it. Members of Congress have not read this bill. It's over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

"This isn't governance. It's hostage-taking."

And in an occurrence as rare as the double planet now being formed by Saturn and Jupiter — which last occurred 800 years ago — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took to Twitter to say that Ocasio-Cortez "is right."

Cruz tweeted that it is "ABSURD" to have "a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then — hours later — demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read."

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