COVID-19 numbers are soaring and job losses are once again mounting. Americans are clamoring for Congress to use the final days of the current lame-duck session to pass additional financial relief. Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell is listening.

“There is no reason — none — why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” the Senate Majority Leader said recently.

As more than 139,000 Kentuckians continue to hunt for jobs, many are counting on Congress to provide additional tax relief, limited liability reforms, and other measures that protect the interests of workers and small businesses.

Sadly, some lawmakers appear more interested in using these final days of the session to hand out political favors rather than provide assistance to vulnerable Americans.

For example, the United States Senate recently introduced a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government before federal departments and agencies’ funding runs dry on Dec. 11. This includes $41 billion for railroad research and development, $82 billion for commissioning American battle monuments, and 17 aircraft with a price tag of $100 million each.

These backward legislative priorities don’t stop with the spending package either. Some members of Congress are trying to sneak through some of the most notorious, costly and controversial bills before the years’ end.

One such bill is the Lumbee Recognition Act. The legislation, which is expected to cost beleaguered taxpayers more than $1 billion, seeks to fully recognize a North Carolina group as a Native American tribe.

For years, Congress has withheld full benefits of federal recognition from the group because genealogists have raised serious doubts about their ancestry. In fact, over the years, they have alleged to descend from at least four different tribes. The Department of Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgement has made clear that “evidence is needed to fully understand who this group is.”

The Lumbees apparently know they lack the evidence to prove they descend from a legitimate tribe. Time and again, they refuse to go through the full governmental process that has afforded formal recognition to numerous other tribes.

While many scientists and federal officials agree that the Lumbees are more of a special interest group than a tribe, those claiming to be Lumbees fight on. Their goal is to secure the benefits that go along with federal tribal recognition, such health care assistance, jobs programs, tuition waivers and lucrative casino rights.

Just as Americans are fighting to recover from COVID-19 restrictions and job losses, elected officials who depended on the Lumbees’ vote and contributions in the recent election are angling to thank the group with a $1 billion payday.

Of course, $1 billion isn’t pocket change. In fact, it’s about 40 percent of what the entire state of Kentucky received in the first round of CARES Act funding. And yet if these lawmakers have their way, the Lumbees – a group of around 55,000 members — will pocket $1 billion in federal benefits, while struggling Kentuckians receive next to nothing.

Why do so many federal lawmakers appear adamant about wasting our hard-earned dollars on politically motivated handouts instead of economic recovery?

It’s almost as if they don’t realize we are in the middle of a pandemic — or they just don’t care.

Kentucky’s U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul need to call out their underhanded colleagues for doing little to nothing to help America’s small business owners and workers as they recover.

This job should be right up Sen. Paul’s alley. He regularly releases Waste Reports highlighting the worst examples of government spending and routinely works to protect tax dollars on the Senate Floor. Now, when every dollar matters more than ever, Kentucky residents are counting on him to block this wasteful legislation.

As America fights to rebound from the economic strain caused by the coronavirus, Senators McConnell and Paul must ensure that, when our tax dollars are spent, they’re used in reasonable, responsible ways. We simply can’t afford to reward shady special interest groups with handouts at the expense of struggling Kentuckians.

 

MATTHEW EMBRY is the chairman of the Butler County Republican Party and a graduate of Western Kentucky University. He previously served as chairman of the Butler County Republican Presidential Caucus.  

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