Calling it a “political ploy” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones joined his Democratic Party colleagues on Thursday in voting against a slimmed down COVID-relief bill that did little to address average workers’ problems with the pandemic.
“Mitch McConnell doesn’t care about the American people, he doesn’t understand the American worker,” Jones said. “This was a stunt. He wants partisan agreement, not a bipartisan bill to help people who are hurting.”
Jones said that McConnell also introduced a scaled-down bill during the previous round of COVID-relief negotiations, which Democrats also defeated. After that defeat, McConnell worked with Democrats and a bipartisan bill passed the Senate with overwhelming support from both parties.
“Alabama would have lost about $2 billion had I voted for the scaled down version last time,” Jones said. “That wasn’t a good bill for the people and this one wasn’t either.”
Jones also pushed back on the notion that Democrats had “blocked” a COVID-19 relief bill, pointing out that House Democrats had passed an expansive relief bill before the summer break in July.
“There’s no reason we couldn’t have used that bill, which wasn’t a perfect bill, as a starting point,” Jones said. “Everyone knew this virus was going to be around through the summer, through the fall. We knew it. I asked for us not to leave, to get this done (before the break). We didn’t. And now we come back and McConnell has this bill that’s less than half of what he proposed before the break, because that’s all he can get his people to agree on. It’s not good enough.”
McConnell’s slimmed down relief bill didn’t include rent protection to prevent those who are out of work because of the virus from being evicted (and to provide aid to landlords). It also didn’t include stimulus payments to Americans out of work or any relief to state or local governments, which are starting to lay off workers. It also trimmed by two-thirds the extended unemployment benefits for Americans out of work, taking the federal payments from $600 to $200.
Jones pointed out that the bill did include, oddly, a $5 billion gift to parents who send their kids to private schools. That money, he said, was included to win Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s vote.
“We have too many people hurting right now to play these games,” Jones said. “Too many good people are out of work and need our help. We owe it to them to do better. If we let this pass, there would never be another opportunity to do more, to get help to the people who need it. That’s why I voted no. I voted no because the American workers deserve better.”