A negative ad released by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio blasts opponent Val Demings for voting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But on one of the votes prominently called out in the 30-second spot, Rubio also voted with the Congresswoman.
“Demings joined Pelosi to give a billion in stimulus checks to convicted criminals and illegal immigrants,” the ad states.
But that calls out provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (S 3548), better known as the CARES Act. Rubio voted to pass that legislation in a 96-0 vote in the Senate in March 2020, in the immediate wake of COVID-19 cases surfacing in the United States.
In fact, Rubio was among just six co-sponsors on the measure, which was sponsored by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
That bill provided $1,200 to prisoners in relief checks. The revelation that inmates could collect became controversial a year later, when some Republicans criticized another round of pandemic relief after President Joe Biden was elected and Democrats won majorities in both chambers of Congress.
But a fact check by CNN at the time showed the funding had first been authorized by the CARES Act, and even though the IRS initially tried to stop checks from going to prisoners, courts said they were eligible to receive the funding.
As for undocumented immigrants, the Congressional Research Center concluded in May 2020 that while benefits were not meant for anyone in the U.S. unlawfully, payments would not be denied to unauthorized immigrants who had a Social Security Number, including those with expired work visas who remained in the country.
Indeed, it’s another CNN fact check confirming that some illegal immigrants would receive CARES Act funding that Rubio’s campaign cited in the criticism of Demings’ vote. The spot simply fails to mention Rubio’s vote went the same way.
That was just a first round of federal spending that put money in the accounts of inmates. Congress in December of 2020 also passed the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2021, which included authorization of $600 checks on top of the $1,200 already received by prisoners. Again, Rubio voted for the bill, this time in a 92-6 vote.