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SC Republican Sen. Tim Scott votes against coronavirus stimulus package

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Sen. Tim Scott takes a selfie during a rally at the North Charleston Coliseum on Feb. 28. File/Andrew Whitaker/Staff

Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott voted against a $100 billion stimulus package to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus that has sent the American economy into a free fall.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure with a 90-8 vote Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump who later signed the package.

Though the legislation provides free testing, expands unemployment benefits and provides paid sick leave to some displaced workers due to the COVID-19 virus emergency, Scott, the junior senator from South Carolina, was one of eight Republicans to vote against it.

In a statement released after the vote, Scott said the "well-meaning" legislation would have a "disastrous effects for South Carolina's small businesses."

Scott initially gave no specifics about what concerned him and those businesses about the legislation, which passed the U.S. House last week.

Later Wednesday night he issued an updated response.

"The provisions in the bill as it relates to paid leave place a mandate on small businesses without a corresponding immediate cash flow," he said.

"We all agree that paid leave needs to play a significant role in relief packages, but to mandate paid leave and then tell businesses they will get it back in a tax credit, is not a good path ...," he added.

Another of the points Scott expanded upon was that the bill did not address the revenue shortfalls business are beginning to experience now, "instead imposing a new administrative and financial burden on them, with back-end assurances."

He added, "creating a new obligation for struggling businesses and promising, through a complex system, to reimburse that new obligation on the back end creates yet another hurdle for businesses in desperate need of financial support."

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Scott said one of the goals in the next round of relief "is to ensure immediate cash flow, instead of a tax credit with an unclear structure and timeline."

The most vocal opponent of the bill was U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. Paul, a widely regarded fiscal hawk, urged members to stop spending money elsewhere in the budget so they could shift resources to address the impact of the virus instead.

"Stop being a rubber stamp for wasteful spending. Do your jobs and prioritize our precious resources. It is our job and our responsibility to conserve our resources," he said.

Paul warned that printing or borrowing the money now could set up a future in which people will not be able to "borrow their way out of a crisis."

The Republican senators who joined Scott and Paul in voting against the bill were: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Scott Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina's senior Republican senator, voted for the bill. He took to Twitter to applaud the efforts happening in Washington, D.C. 

"In the War Against Coronavirus, ALL of us are key players. We are ALL soldiers in the fight!" Graham posted.

The vote comes as senators are already beginning work on a "phase three" of coronavirus relief funding, which is expected to include help for small businesses and major industries impacted by the virus, as well as assistance for families.

Direct cash payments for Americans is one idea being discussed in Washington. Graham has already voiced his opposition to that idea.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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