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Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., arrives for a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was one of six Republican senators voting against a massive COVID-19 relief and government agency funding bill on Monday night.

The nearly $2.4 trillion bill, which includes $900 million to address coronavirus-created needs such as $300-a-week unemployment benefits as well as one-time payments to individuals of up to $600 per person, won approval on a 92-6 vote.

Blackburn charged in a statement that while Senate Republicans had worked to provide targeted economic relief in the face of the COVID pandemic, "Congressional Democrats fought us every inch of the way, and held this relief hostage as they pressed for over $3 trillion in special interest giveaways.

"They admittedly used a pandemic to push a socialistic agenda," Blackburn contended.

But the Brentwood Republican said, "I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder. I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593-page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments. For these reasons, I voted no on passage of this legislation."

Blackburn later followed up in a Tuesday tweet in which she said she also voted against the "Bloated COVID bill" for what she characterized as "Unconscionable Spending" as well as "Billions for NY public transport" and "Endless Lawsuits for Businesses."

She was joined in her opposition by Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rick Scott of Florida.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, had his own take, tweeting Monday that "after this difficult year & as holidays near, glad some long-overdue #COVID relief's finally here. Despite Scrooge #McConnell, Dems secured #StimulusChecks, rent aid & more. More is needed, but for now ppl can stay in their homes, put food on the table & spread holiday cheer."

Forty-four Republican senators voted for the bill, a list that included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as well as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Senate Finance subcommittee chairman, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and full Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Alexander touted the financial support the legislation provides in areas ranging from continuing work on a replacement lock for the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga to funding for Oak Ridge National Laboratory needs and vital U.S. Department of Energy programs.

Perdue and Loeffler face a Jan. 5 runoff election with Democratic opponents Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Perdue said in a statement that "after months of Democrat obstruction, we are finally able to deliver much-needed, additional COVID-19 assistance to the American people and fund the federal government. In this crisis, my number one priority has always been to protect the people of Georgia and immediately drive recovery efforts."

Describing it as a "bipartisan relief package," Perdue also said it "will continue building upon our already historic action and directly support the health and economic security of our entire country."

The legislation passed the House on two separate votes, with the second vote combining both the pandemic-response portion and the $1.4 trillion measure funding most federal government agencies until September. The second vote was 359 to 53. The House roll call tally shows 230 Democrats, 128 Republicans and one independent voted yes while 2 Democrats, 50 Republicans and one independent voted no.

Tennessee U.S. House Republicans voting for the measures were U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Phil Roe of Johnson City and David Kustoff of Memphis. Both of Tennessee's Democratic congressmen, Jim Cooper of Nashville and Cohen, also voted for it.

Voting no were Tennessee Republican U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood, Mark Green of Ashland City and John Rose of Cookeville.

Burchett posted a self-recorded smartphone video as he left the Capitol in which he criticized the "terrible vote series" and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "put some much-needed COVID assistance and wrapped it up with a bunch of unrealistic election year" provisions and "tied everything to this bloated government spending bill."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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