Keller critical of $1.9 trillion aid package

March 9, 2021
In The News

MILTON — Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa.12) said Monday that a pending House vote on a $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief would likely be today.

But Keller, speaking online and in-person to Central Pa. Chamber of Commerce members, had some doubts about the American Rescue Plan Act.

Keller said about 9% of the spending goes to fighting the COVID-19 virus, while education spending and much of the rest would be deferred to 2022. The third COVID-19 relief package was passed by the US Senate over the weekend and sent to the House for reconciliation.

Keller acknowledged there were people who were concerned about debt incurred through the pandemic relief bills. He also reflected upon the unknowns of a year ago as businesses were directed to shut down. Keller recalled the measures and their associated debt were necessary.

“We had to step in and do what we felt was necessary at that point in time,” he said. “There were some things that we could have picked apart in that legislation a year ago and even the end of the year.”

Though Keller supported the previous relief bills, he did not support this one — the first of the Biden Administration — and noted it “did many other things.” Similarly, a more measured response was called for now.

“Right now, it is not necessary to put kids and grand-kids another (trillion) dollars into debt,” he added. “I think we’ve been hearing that from a lot of people.”

Keller said he would not support a measure which he said included stimulus checks for non-citizens and prison inmates. Infrastructure such as a “bridge in New York” and a “subway” in Silicon Valley should also be a separate discussion.

“I will continue to stand up and there are many in Congress who are standing up,” Keller said. “(House Minority Leader Kevin) McCarthy (R-Calif.23) has done some outstanding messaging.

The $15 federal minimum wage was out of the latest bill, Keller added. He said the increased buying power attributed to the higher wage would not likely be felt by seniors who could see costs increase.

Keller said relief money was still available from last year’s appropriations.

“We are advocating to try and get that driven out before we do anything else,” Keller said. “It doesn’t look like that is going to happen. This other money is going to be appropriated and it is going to have broad-reaching effects other than COVID-19.”

Keller noted that in the 117th Congress he was serving on the House energy, education, labor and oversight committees. He will also serve as assistant House Republican whip.

Chamber members had questions.

Alison Hall, chamber board member and business owner, noted that it was difficult to find people to work as some are making more in unemployment compensation than they could in the workplace.

Hall, Lewisburg UPS store owner, said it was frustrating because her business was growing and needed people. Keller replied that the people who have made the rules were at fault rather than employees.

Hall also noted a bill which could soon be voted on could increase the legal liability encountered by franchise owners, essentially turning them into middle managers. Keller was critical of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and was hopeful it could be sent back to committee through a motion to recommit.

Topics covered also included money given to bail out union pensions, a bill which would require local police departments to be accredited and aid for seniors.