Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that included a provision some said was discriminatory.
Now, in a major blow to the Biden administration, a three-judge panel has decided 2–1 to strike down that part of the pricey law, The Daily Wire reports.
The case at issue
At issue in the suit is the so-called Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $29 billion fund administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that was intended to provide relief to small, privately owned restaurants struggling to make payroll and keep their doors open amid COVID-19.
The problem? Written into the law is a provision requiring the SBA to prioritize grant applications from businesses that are at least 51% owned by members of certain minority communities, as well as women and veterans.
Applicants who didn’t fall into those categories would reportedly have to wait until a 21-day period expired before their applications would be accepted and reviewed, a process that could then take another two weeks.
According to The Daily Wire, the suit was first filed by Antonio Vitolo, the 50-50 co-owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Tennessee with his wife, who is Hispanic. Vitolo said he was forced to wait to have his application considered, and was concerned the fund would be depleted before he even got a chance at the money.
Ironically, as was laid out in a scathing Substack article from journalist Glenn Greenwald, had Vitolo’s wife owned just 1% more of the business, the application for grant relief would likely have been expedited by the SBA.
According to The Daily Wire, the suit was initially rejected by a district court before being appealed to the Sixth Circuit, where it was heard by a three-judge panel that included both Trump-appointed Judge Amal Thapar and Reagan-appointed Judge Alan Norris, who formed the majority opinion, as well as Obama-appointed Judge Bernice Donald, who wrote a legally dubious dissent.
“This case is about whether the government can allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on the race and sex of the applicants. We hold that it cannot,” Thapar wrote for the court, which issued an injunction against the policy.
Thapar went on to dissect the “explicit racial and ethnic preferences” that he said had been “injected” into the process for considering applications, calling the policy a “scattershot approach.”
“[I]ndividuals who trace their ancestry to Pakistan and India qualify for special treatment. But those from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq do not. Those from China, Japan, and Hong Kong all qualify. But those from Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco do not,” the judge wrote, according to the Daily Wire.
“As today’s case shows once again, the ‘way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,'” the judge concluded. Who could disagree?