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Republicans in House race weigh in on stimulus bill

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Republicans hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District say the recently passed stimulus package is needed to weather an economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Safety Act, or CARES Act, passed both houses of Congress last week with bipartisan support. It was later signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Torres Small, whose district stretches from southern Bernalillo County down to the southern border and encompasses most of southern New Mexico, voted for the mammoth $2.2 trillion package.

“Local hospitals and clinics need more testing supplies, masks, and gloves to keep healthcare workers and patients safe. Small businesses need support to keep their doors open and workers need relief as they face cut hours and layoffs. This bipartisan deal isn’t perfect, but it takes immediate steps to confront the health and economic crises keeping New Mexican families up at night,” Torres Small said in a press release after the vote.

Among other things in the relief package are $200 billion for hospitals and health research, more than $375 billion in loans for small businesses and direct payments for lower- and middle-income Americans of up to $1,200 for individuals and $500 per child, according to the release.

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Claire Chase and Chris Mathys, two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to unseat Torres Small in November, said Thursday they would have voted for the legislation.

“I think that $2 trillion is a pretty steep price tag, but that we had to get it done to address the crisis we are facing today,” Chase said.

Mathys said he also would have supported it.

“Hard-working Americans needed the president’s stimulus bill,” Mathys said.

Yvette Herrell, a former state legislator who is running for the Republican nomination in the race, did not say exactly how she would have voted on the bill.

“Extreme times have called for extreme measures. I am grateful that many Americans and small business owners will find relief with the legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Trump,” she said in a statement released by her campaign.

Chase and Mathys each said direct payments and small business loans will help boost the economy and assist people negatively impacted by the social distancing measures and public health orders enacted to combat the global pandemic.

All three candidates though criticized certain parts of the bill.

Mathys said he would have fought harder to remove what he deemed nonessential subsidies and corporate bailouts, such as money designed to assist the airline industry.

“I support payroll relief for workers and assisting small business owners during these difficult times but do not believe we should bail out large corporations who have made record profits over the last few years,” he said.

Herrell in her statement accused House Democrats of taking advantage of the crisis presented by COVID-19 to push through funding for certain items.

Chase said she would have taken issue with appropriations in the package, such as $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and money for the National Endowment for the Arts.

“This is just not the time to be discussing projects like that when we are trying to face the worst pandemic the world has seen, in my lifetime anyway,” Chase said.

One thing Chase said she was disappointed to see absent from the package: measures to help the oil and gas industry.

A former chair of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Chase said American energy producers are incurring losses not only from decreased demand for oil brought on by less traveling but also Russia and Saudi Arabia ramping up production.

“So the American energy producer is in a real bad position right now,” she said.

Despite the enormity of the relief package, some discussion has already begun about another possible relief package. Trump in a tweet Tuesday suggested more legislation, aimed at improving the economy through infrastructure projects.

Chase said she wants to wait and see how effective the latest stimulus bill will be before talking about a follow-up.

Mathys said he, too, wants to proceed with caution.

“We need to be very careful before we incur further national debt,” he said.

 Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.