While Sen. Joni Ernst and her Republican colleagues on Wednesday touted the Senate’s $500 billion coronavirus relief bill, Democrats defended their votes against a proposal they contend comes nowhere close to meeting the needs of Americans as the pandemic continues to tear through states, including Iowa.
A record-breaking 534 Iowans are hospitalized today with COVID-19, a 54-patient jump in two days. Thirty-two coronavirus-related deaths also were reported Wednesday, surpassing the previous 24-hour high of 25 deaths on May 22.
In a virtual press conference this afternoon, Iowa Democratic Party chair Mark Smith pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s sabotage of a comprehensive coronavirus package as evidence Republican leadership is not serious about advancing meaningful legislation. Rather, Smith said, McConnell is putting the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett above all else.
“Instead of focusing on the unprecedented crisis at hand, Ernst is rushing to confirm a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court who could strike down the Affordable Care Act and gut coverage protections for preexisting conditions,” Smith said. “A recent PPP poll found that 55% of Iowa voters say that the Senate should pass new economic relief before considering a new Supreme Court justice, compared to only 32% who disagree. Yet, Sen. Ernst is charging ahead, ignoring the voices of Iowans.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley are members, will vote Thursday on Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Barrett’s nomination is expected to go before the full Senate on Monday.
News reports surfaced yesterday that McConnell had told the White House to end coronavirus stimulus negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over “concerns there would not be enough GOP votes to back a package and worries that voting on such legislation could negatively affect the timing” of Barrett’s confirmation vote.
The $500 billion bill that failed today along party lines included enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government, $105 billion for schools, $20 billion for the agriculture industry and more funds for testing and vaccine development, among other measures.
In a statement, Ernst said “something is better than nothing.”
“I hope my Democratic friends will come back to the table in good-faith and work with us to get much-needed relief to American families and workers,” Ernst said, while also accusing Democrats of “choosing to hold COVID-19 aid hostage for the sake of their partisan wish list.”
On Tuesday, McConnell put forth a bill dedicated solely to the Paycheck Protection Program, a move IDP spokesman Jeremy Busch described as “nothing more than an election stunt to mask Sen. Ernst’s rush to confirm a lifetime appointment that could repeal the ACA and gut coverage protections for preexisting conditions amid a health care crisis.”
Veronica Guevara said during the IDP press conference “the current proposals from the Senate GOP just don’t cut it, they’re for politics, not people.”
“Sen. Ernst must put the crisis above all else, but that’s not what we’ve seen,” Guevara, of Des Moines, said. “Iowans want this Supreme Court confirmation process to wait until after the election, not just because of the precedent that Sen. Ernst herself set, but because coronavirus relief cannot wait another day. Sen. Ernst must end her push on the Supreme Court and finally start focusing on the enormous health and economic crisis here at home.”
Guevara lost her grandfather to COVID-19, and her mother and grandmother also spent days in the hospital because of the respiratory disease.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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