Frank Burns

Frank Burns

It’s shameful that Republicans in the U.S. Senate have slowed to a tortoise-like pace when it comes to providing $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks to Americans, many of whom need help for the first – and perhaps only – time since they’ve been paying federal taxes.

While Democrats, along with a few Republicans, in the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump all support the $2,000 figure, Senate Republicans claim it “will cost too much,” but they had no problem voting to ship billions of your tax dollars overseas to fund other countries.

These senators sit high in their ivory towers making decisions where to spend our tax dollars, while forgetting we are the ones actually paying the bills.

Like most of you, I wonder what planet any Republican senator must be living on if he or she, given a choice between two figures, thinks $600 is better than $2,000 to help fellow citizens jammed up due to circumstances beyond their control.

If you’re a hard-working American, the pill that Senate Republicans want you to swallow is bitter in addition to being small. That’s because the same people who want to pinch pennies when it comes to helping you have opened the financial flood gates to send your money to countries around the world.

They have no problem giving Israel $3.3 billion and Egypt $1.3 billion. They’re shipping Burma $135 million to promote ethnic and religious tolerance. They wrote a fat $461 million check to Colombia on conditions that include that country taking steps to fight illegal narcotics and protect indigenous communities. They signed off on $10 million for Pakistan for “gender programs.”

I say: “We take care of our own people first and then everybody else.”

In times of crisis, such as we clearly have now, our elected officials’ first obligation is to the people they are elected to serve – not paying off some corrupt government in a faraway land to do the right thing, or taking care of an ally’s military needs or funding social programs in nations that should be doing it for themselves.

It’s nice and maybe even noble to be able to do all those things – but they can’t and shouldn’t be our top priority right now. The taxpayers who’ve been footing the bill for all manners of spending for decades of their working lives – while asking for or getting little in return – need to be our primary focus.

Senate Republicans and their leader, Mitch McConnell, shouldn’t have hesitated for one second to approve $2,000.

As the unlikely alliance of House Democrats and Trump demonstrated, no matter your political party, “America first” means taking care of your own before being generous to anyone else. 

State Rep. Frank Burns, D-East Taylor Township, represents the 72nd Legislative District.

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