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Dems bow to unions, provide $86 billion bailout for pensions in COVID stimulus bill

Democrats like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in the past that the COVID-19 stimulus packages Democrats wanted to pass had "nothing to do with unions"

Updated: March 12, 2021 - 12:53pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Under union pressure, Democrats have provided an $86 billion bailout for union pensions in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill the House passed Wednesday.

The American Rescue Plan legislation, which reflects the Biden stimulus plan unveiled in January, includes $86 billion for struggling union-managed pensions. Ahead of the Biden inauguration, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was pressuring Democrats to provide the pension funding.

In September, Democrats were advocating for passage of the $3 trillion HEROES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill. Republicans were critical of the bill, arguing that some of the funding would be used for a pension bailout unrelated to COVID-19.

"Democrats think they smell an opening they have wanted for years, to make Uncle Sam bail out decades of mismanagement and broken policies in places like New York, New Jersey and California," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said.

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told Just the News at the time that the Democrats' call for more stimulus spending had "nothing to do with unions."

Fast-forward to the Democrats' $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by the House Wednesday, which allocates $86 billion to bail out union-managed pensions. The bill also includes a mammoth $350 billion federal taxpayer outlay for state and local governments.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott referred to the Biden stimulus and its union pension bailout as a "payback for the Biden election.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters praised the Democrats for including the taxpayer funding for failing pensions in the stimulus bill. 

"For my entire administration, the Teamsters have been fighting for members and retirees who only want to receive the nest eggs that they've worked so hard to earn for their golden years," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in a statement. 

BCTGM International Union also applauded passage of the bill.

"This is a historic rescue package," the union said in a statement, touting the bill for providing "funding to shore up multi-employer pension plans, protecting earned retirement benefits for millions of hard-working Americans."

Democrats moved the bill through the Senate using budget rules that allowed the bill to pass without votes from Republicans. 

Texas Republican Rep. Jodey Arrington slammed the bill in a speech Wednesday on the House floor, arguing that Democrats jammed through the "partisan legislation" because this is not COVID relief.

"It's a $2 trillion blue state boondoggle," Arrington said. "It's because Speaker Pelosi is throwing your tax dollars at Democrat cronies like a float captain throws beads at a Mardi Gras Parade, bailout for cash-flush states like California; bailout for schools who still refuse to open their doors to struggling students. This massive spending bill masquerading as COVID relief will bankrupt the country. It will not rescue the country, bankrupt it and saddle our children with insurmountable debt."

Connecticut Democratic Rep. John Larson argued that the bill "meets the moment and fulfills that old adage that help is on the way."

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