Senator Elizabeth Warren said it was reckless of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to force the senate to deliberate and vote in person after the outbreak of COVID-19.
On March 23, Sen. Rand Paul confirmed that he conducted normal business, including being in close quarters with other senators and using the Senate gym, while knowing he may be carrying the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Paul eventually tested positive for it.
Warren said she was not in close proximity to Paul, but noted that the Senate chamber is a small one and tshe and Paul may have been on the floor at the same time.
“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 during an interview with Boston Public Radio on Monday. “[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.”
In the Senate, Warren was one of the Democratic voices arguing that the recently passed stimulus bill should include more protections for workers, a longer unemployment payment period and aid for small businesses.
On Monday, Warren said that she was unhappy with a portion of the bill that allocates $500 billion in aid to airlines, cargo air carriers and other big companies. Democrats like Warren argued the initial version of the bill gave too much leeway to Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin to disperse the funds.
In the final version, oversight committees and public transparency requirements were added to ensure the funds are not improperly given out. Rather than be used to help large companies, Warren said the money should be used to help local governments make up for the loss of revenue the pandemic has caused.
“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.”
Warren said that she is worried about President Donald Trump’s ability to lead the nation as the pandemic evolves.
“Our values are not about improving Donald Trump’s ratings. Our values are about saving lives,” Warren said. “Our values are about reducing the pain that people are experiencing because they’re not having income coming in or they’ve had to close up their small businesses and Donald Trump shows no human understanding of that, and that really worries me.”
Warren added that Trump’s public handling of the pandemic could cause some to question the competency of the government in a time when it is crucial.
“I also worry about just plain old basic competence,” Warren said. “Even if our values diverge, this is a time when you want to see government that is just competent.”