Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic

Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (D-Mass.), a former Democratic presidential hopeful, criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) for forcing the upper chamber to cast votes in person amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Ky.) became the first senator to become infected with the virus last week. Paul had previously been in close quarters with other senators, in addition to reportedly using the Senate gym and swimming in the pool while awaiting his test results for the virus.

Warren told WGBH that she had not been near Paul, but said she and the GOP lawmaker may have been on the Senate floor at the same time. 

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“I had not been in the swimming pool and at lunch, but we were all on the floor at various times and the truth is I don’t stop to look where’s Rand Paul,” Warren said, saying that McConnell would not allow lawmakers to vote remotely “during this time of crisis."  

“[McConnell’s] big concession was the doors would be propped open so that no one actually had to pull on the handle to get in. Otherwise, people were all milling around down close where you go down to vote. This is just not taking this pandemic seriously and not taking the threat of contagion seriously, and I think that’s wrong,” she continued.

McConnell said earlier this month that he would lengthen votes from 15 minutes to 30 minutes to allow senators to avoid congregating on the floor. 

“So I would encourage everyone, take full advantage of a full 30-minute roll call vote. Come in and vote and leave and be aware of the social distancing,” McConnell said.

However, he rejected the idea of remote voting at the time. 

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"We'll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together," McConnell told reporters.

The Senate last week voted to approve a $2 trillion stimulus bill that was also passed by the House and signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE. Warren called for the bill to include greater protections for workers, including a longer unemployment payment period in addition to greater aid to small businesses struggling amid the pandemic, WGBH reported.

The package also allocates $500 billion in aid to industries that have been hit by the pandemic, including airlines, cargo air carries and others. Warren criticized the funding as a slush fund, calling for the money to be spent on local governments to help them make up for their revenue losses, the outlet reported.  

“Part four [of the bill] was to create half a trillion dollar slush fund that the Trump Administration could use to help his political friends and punish his political enemies, and I think that’s a bad thing,” Warren said. “For my view on this, the slush fund never should have been created just to help these giant corporations. Now, there is another part in this and that is that same half trillion dollars of money could be used to help states and local governments."

The final version of the package creates an inspector general and oversight committee for the funds.

As of Tuesday morning, at least 163,575 people have tested positive for the virus in the U.S. At least 3,000 patients with the virus have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.