The Journal Gazette
Saturday, March 28, 2020 1:00 am

Banks backs bill despite 'pork,' firm on China

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, was among U.S. House members who returned to Capitol Hill on Friday to approve the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

“The CARES Act will keep the lights on in America. It will put cash in the hands of Americans who need help to pay their bills and put food on the table. And it will give a lifeline to small businesses when they need it most,” Banks said in a floor speech ahead of Friday's vote.

“This is by no means a perfect bill, but it gets help to the people who need it most. And I hope we will come back and make changes as needed in the near future,” he said about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which the Senate passed in a unanimous roll-call vote late Wednesday and President Donald Trump signed Friday afternoon.

He later said in a statement: “I would have written a different bill – I am dismayed to see some pork stuffed into this one.”

Banks' office said he drove Thursday from Indiana to Washington, D.C., for the voice vote. The House has been in recess, but the Washington Post reported that “well over” 200 members showed up Friday.

Two weeks earlier, Banks voted against the second phase of coronavirus aid approved by Congress and signed by Trump, saying it would harm small businesses. He later said he agreed with technical corrections made to that legislation.

This week, Banks and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., introduced a resolution that would condemn China for “multiple serious mistakes ... that heightened the severity and spread” of COVID-19, believed to have originated there late last year. The resolution accuses the Chinese government of “the intentional spread of misinformation to downplay the risks of the virus, a refusal to cooperate with international health authorities, internal censorship of doctors and journalists, and malicious disregard for the health of ethnic minorities.”

But Moulton said Thursday he had withdrawn as a sponsor of the resolution and apologized to Asian Americans “who were hurt at a time when their community is under assault by racists in our own country.”

Banks tweeted earlier in the week that the resolution had attracted 40 co-sponsors. Asked Friday whether he would keep urging its approval, an aide said in an email, “Absolutely.”

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