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Stimulus relief more urgent than Barrett vote

The Republican-controlled Senate presented a scripted-reality television program this week with a pre-ordained final episode: the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The country is reeling from a second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans are dying in droves. The economy is seriously ailing. But Senate Republicans are running a fever to confirm the conservative jurist to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died in September.

Across America furloughs are becoming permanent job losses. More than 15 million are out of work, many facing an expiration of unemployment benefits. Bankruptcies are rising. State and local governments have shed more than 1.5 million workers. Delinquent rental and mortgage payments are spiking.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans insist their ideological objective to lock in a 6-3 majority of conservative Supreme Court justices before the Nov. 3 election takes precedence.

No surprise here, but the skewed priorities of McConnell and his GOP senators are at odds with American public opinion.

A Tufts University coronavirus tracking poll found 65 percent think Congress should prioritize passing legislation to alleviate the economic and health impacts of the pandemic over confirming a new Supreme Court justice.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called a committee vote next week to move Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate. Republicans say they have the votes for confirmation.

Although The Day disagrees with Judge Barrett's previously stated opposition to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act, she seems well-qualified. Rather, we oppose the nauseating hypocrisy of Senate Republicans. In 2016, they rejected Judge Merrick Garland when President Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court 10 months before the presidential election. Back then, McConnell said the American people should have a voice in the selection of a Supreme Court judge by electing the next president.

Four years later McConnell and his GOP Senate colleagues are no longer willing to wait three weeks to let Americans weigh in at the ballot box. The Republican cynicism is reprehensible.

We also object to Senate Republicans needlessly force-marching the Barrett confirmation hearings while slow-walking the more urgently needed pandemic relief funding.

The coronavirus invaded America last winter, killing thousands, shuttering schools and businesses, eliminating jobs and crashing the stock market.

In March, bipartisan cooperation among House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House swiftly approved several stimulus bills that pumped nearly $3 trillion into the staggering economy. The largest bill, the CARES Act, passed the Senate unanimously.

The stimulus provided vital support to households and businesses. Consumer spending propped up the economy. The Paycheck Protection Program preserved millions of jobs.

The infusion of federal cash allowed the financial markets to recover from freefall. Senate Republicans were on board for federal stimulus relief when the stock market cratered in March. Now that the financial markets have recovered, Republicans seem less concerned.

The stock market may have recovered, but families and businesses have not. The stimulus spending approved in March has expired. Additional funding is needed to support millions who face extended periods of unemployment.

In May, House Democrats passed another $3 trillion relief package. McConnell buried that in the Senate. Democrats then made several lesser proposals; the latest for $2.2 trillion. All were ignored.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed a White-House-sanctioned $1.8 trillion package. Mnuchin’s proposal was shot down by Senate Republicans as too generous, and by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as completely inadequate. In frustration, Mnuchin announced Wednesday that federal relief was unlikely until after the election.

The virus pays no attention to election cycles and political party priorities. The virus will plague us long after Judge Barrett joins the Supreme Court. All the conservative judges that Republicans pack onto the federal courts will not rescue the country from the economic ruin inflicted by this pandemic.

Without further federal stimulus relief support, the economy will founder, creating further misery for American families and businesses. The rebound the financial markets experienced since March will evaporate.

The country needs another infusion of federal relief funding now. If Republicans won’t get it done before the election, we hope a Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled House and Senate will. 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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