Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday said it’s unclear whether Senate Republican leadership or the White House will work with Democrats to draft another round of meaningful COVID-19 relief for a country in need.
Jones, speaking to reporters during a Facebook Live press briefing, said Sen. Mitch McConnell’s paired-down bill, which he and all other Democrats, and one Republican Senator, voted against on Thursday was a “political stunt” by McConnell and did far too little for individuals, businesses, schools and local governments.
Democrats passed the $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in May, but McConnell declined to take it up in the Senate or use it as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, Jones said.
Democrats later agreed to drop the price of that aid down to just more than $2 trillion, Jones said, but the Trump Administration refused to budge and talks fell apart. Trump then signed a series of executive orders to provide aid in piecemeal.
Jones said that he does not believe Trump was acting in good faith and wanted to strike a deal with Democrats, and instead used the crisis for personal political gain.
“Democrats who were trying to do this were talking about things that are important to help the American people. He would refuse to budge because he wanted to issue those executive orders and have a photo op with his big signature on those executive orders that he issued. I am absolutely convinced of that,” Jones said.
Jones was also asked about a statement in opponent in the upcoming November election made regarding revelations that President Trump lied to the American people about his knowledge of the deadliness of COVID-19. Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville told a reporter this week that while he hadn’t watched the news on the matter, he believed it was “fake news.”
The Washington Post journalist and author Bob Woodward in his latest book wrote that Trump told him on Feb. 7 that the disease was “deadly” and that it was “more deadly than your strenuous flu” while spending the next month telling the public that COVID-19 was no more dangerous than the regular flu. Woodward this week released segments of his recordings of those interviews with Trump saying those words.
The President should have been doing more in February, March and April to ready the country for what was to come with coronavirus, Jones said “but instead he was saying that was going to miraculously disappear.”
Jones noted that for the last several months Jones has hosted press briefings inviting top infectious disease experts at the University of Alabama and other top health officials on, to speak about the pandemic and take questions from the media and the public. Jones said Tuberville’s defense of Trump’s comments undermines Alabama’s ability to get information to the public.
“If we’re still undermining that competency, if we’re still doing things to support and defend comments that are not supportable and not defensible, what we’re going to see is a problem when we do actually have a vaccine,” Jones said.
“I think that Coach Clueless’s comments really reflect the fact that he’s always going to support Donald Trump no matter what,” Jones said, referring to Tuberville. “We see it all too often up there right now. People will not stand up and speak out even when they know the President is wrong, and he should be called to account for it.”
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, also spoke to reporters during Jones’s press briefing, and both he and Jones urged the public to go ahead and cast absentee ballots for the November election. Alabama is already accepting ballots by mail, or in person, at local Courthouses.
“What’s unique about our current situation, and the tragedy of the pandemic, is that we now have what is essentially early voting in Alabama,” England said.
Sending in an absentee ballot by mail can be confusing, England explained, and requires a copy of a photo ID and for two witnesses or a notary to sign the ballot application. England said people can also simply visit their local county courthouse with their photo ID, ask for a ballot application, fill it out and fill out their ballot and cast their vote on the spot.
“Get up. Get your ID. get your mask. Go to your local county courthouse. Request your absentee ballot application. Fill out that and the ballot and cast your vote,” England said.
Jones encouraged the public to visit onealabamavotes.com to learn more about how to vote, by mail or in person.
“We’ve got a chance in Alabama to get numbers up through this process, and that’s a good thing,” Jones said.