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DeSantis blasts Congress’ stimulus bill, singles out Pakistan funding

But he wouldn’t say whether Trump should veto the package, which includes $600 direct payments to Americans.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a press conference on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla., regarding education and COVID-19 at Boggy Creek Elementary School. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a press conference on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla., regarding education and COVID-19 at Boggy Creek Elementary School. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel via AP) [ RICARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA | AP ]
Published Dec. 23, 2020
Updated Dec. 23, 2020

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis joined in on the chorus of criticism over Congress’ recent economic stimulus bill on Wednesday, calling it a “disappointing” package that was rammed through in mere hours.

During a press event about the COVID-19 vaccine in Pensacola, DeSantis was asked whether President Donald Trump, his staunch ally, should veto the bill. He said he couldn’t say.

“I think it’s hard to know when they write a 5,000-page bill, they publish it at, I think, 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and they pass it at 9 at night,” he said. “Now, I don’t know about you all, but I can’t read 5,000 pages in six hours.”

The main highlight of the $2.3 billion economic stimulus package, passed by large majorities in Congress on Monday, are $600 direct payments to Americans. But the bill is more than 5,500 pages long, and both Democrats and Republicans have been sharply critical of being given just a few hours to read it before casting votes.

Since then, the bill has been revealed to contain a host of giveaways to the wealthy, including tax breaks for people who own racehorses, tax deductions for business meals and additional tax benefits for companies that have already received pandemic funding.

Trump has called the bill a “disgrace,” and has threatened to veto it.

DeSantis, a little-known congressman before Trump’s endorsement catapulted him to the front of the GOP primary for governor in 2018, singled out “a few people in leadership” in Congress for the bill.

“It’s a few people in the leadership who jam this stuff through, and we have to look, as taxpayers, and try to figure out if this is something that is good or not,” he said. “They’ve really had six months to think about this, and to do it this way, with six months, was disappointing.”

He singled out two items in the bill on Wednesday: $10 million for “gender programs” and $15 million for “democracy programs” in Pakistan.

“Could you have at least waited a year for Pakistan?” he said.

He said he would have liked the bill to have included more efforts to “support working folks” who have been suffering during the pandemic.

But in July, as federal $600 weekly unemployment benefits were days away from expiring, DeSantis had the chance to weigh in on whether Congress should extend the program. The federal benefits were a critical lifeline for the millions of Floridians who have been relying on Florida’s $275-per-week benefits, among the stingiest in the nation.

Instead, he declined to answer about extending the federal benefits.

“I haven’t been following what they’re doing,” he told a reporter then.

DeSantis said he was still having his office review Congress’ bill to see what effects they might have on Florida.