Republicans say Biden COVID package pays off teachers union ‘ransom note’

Senate Republicans condemned President Biden’s latest COVID relief package as a partisan "liberal wish list" during Tuesday’s press conference, but school funding is receiving the most backlash. 

"Schools all across America ought to be open right now," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters.  "And yet Joe Biden has surrendered to the teachers union, they sent him a ransom note and he was happy to pay it."


The push to get kids back in the classroom nationwide has increasingly driven the coronavirus debate in recent weeks.

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Biden pledged to get schools reopened within the first 100 days of his presidency. But the White House raised eyebrows earlier this month, after announcing that getting kids back in the classroom for even one day a week would be considered a success.

Republicans are now pushing back on the $128 billion set aside for K-12 schools in Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a package that GOP leadership said is bloated and stacked with demands that "have absolutely nothing to do with COVID relief."


"The amount they spent on public health only constitutes about 10 percent of the entire $1.9 trillion," GOP Whip, Sen. John Thune said Tuesday.

"Ninety-five percent of the money that they put towards education wouldn’t be spent until after 2021," he continued, noting the funds would be spent over a period of seven years starting in 2022. "Hardly seems like an emergency," he added.


Thune also pointed to the $68 billion that was allocated for school funding in the last coronavirus relief package, of which only $4 billion has been utilized. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that it is safe to get kids back in the classroom as long as certain safety precautions are met.

But several teachers unions have continued to push back, with teachers refusing to end virtual learning until they can be vaccinated.


The adverse side effects of at-home learning are not only harming children’s academic prowess, mental health and social skills, but women are increasingly dropping from the workforce in order to pick up the slack in their children’s education.


"Two hundred and seventy-five thousand women left the workforce in January," Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Tuesday. "This is something that we can’t continue to sustain."

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"It is because their children…in many of those cases, are not in school," she explained. "They’re stepping aside and they’re putting their own goals to the rear, and putting their children first."


Ernst said the damage that is being done to working women is irreversible, as their careers and income will be permanently hindered by even their temporary withdrawal from the workforce.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he does not believe a single Republican in the upper chamber will support the bill and called on Biden to ensure that the package is passed in a bipartisan fashion.

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The bill is expected to be voted on in the House this Friday, before heading to the Senate, where it will likely be passed, as long as it maintains the support of every Democrat.

Sam Dorman contributed to this report.