Second stimulus check update: Senate should focus on coronavirus relief bill

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and other Senate Democrats blasted their Republican colleagues Monday for moving ahead with the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett rather than take up another coronavirus stimulus bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee convened while negotiations between the White House and congressional House Democrats continued on legislation to address the coronavirus.

With more than 200,000 Americans dead due to the coronavirus and millions out of work due the pandemic-caused economic downturn, Booker used his opening statement at Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee to call on his fellow senators to address those problems instead of rushing to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee shortly before a presidential election.

“We should be, as the Senate, working in a bipartisan way to try to get this virus out of control, to get relief to who are hurting or struggling,” said Booker, D-N.J. “Instead of doing anything to help people who are struggling right now, we are here.”

The Democrats’ call to delay the confirmation until after the election was supposed by a majority of Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday, 52% to 44%.

Booker later joined other Senate Democrats after Monday’s opening hearing to question the Senate’s priorities.

“Maybe it’s time to help the American people instead of jamming through their nominee,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who like Booker unsuccessfully sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump, who called off negotiations last week only to restart them two days later, complained via Twitter Monday that Booker and his colleagues were given too much time to make opening statements. He called on the Republicans to quickly confirm Barrett and then turn their attention to stimulus legislation.

The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice. Personally, I would pull back, approve, and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!

He also pushed Republicans to pass stimulus legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said senators had the power under the Constitution to confirm a justice so close to Election Day.

He said the difference between now and four years ago, when he refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court during the last presidential election, was that the Senate was controlled by a different political party than the White House.

In stimulus negotiations, Democrats are demanding aid to state and local governments to help them pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters, health care workers, schoolteachers and other public sector employeesaid to state and local governments,

They also have included $75 billion for a national plan to combat the pandemic, including expanded testing and contract tracing.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Sunday that the Trump administration’s proposal was “woefully inadequate.”

“The administration continues to refuse to put a national testing, tracing and surveillance plan in place, and is once again punting its responsibility to the states,” said Pallone, D-6th Dist. “States simply cannot do this on their own and that’s why we need a comprehensive, coordinated national testing strategy, with clear federal benchmarks and timelines, that the administration must meet.”

The Democratic-passed $2.2 trillion legislation also includes $1,200 stimulus payments, extra federal unemployment benefits and on more paycheck protection program funds for small businesses, and and more money for the U.S. Postal Service to help handle an expected unprecedented amount of absentee ballots.

In the Senate, the only bill Republicans brought to the floor was for $500 billion and did not include stimulus payments or state and local aid but did provide taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools and did protect businesses from lawsuits if their employees or customers contracted COVID-19. That measure did not have enough support to pass the chamber.

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