Chiding his Republican colleagues for caring more about funding military defense than “the defenseless,” US Senator Ed Markey took to the floor of his chamber Tuesday to demand the Senate be permitted to vote on President Trump’s call for sending $2,000 checks to most Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the economy, leaving millions jobless.
“I hate to say this, but my Republican colleagues seem more interested in funding defense than in funding the defenseless,” Markey, a Malden Democrat and newly emergent hero to progressives and environmentalists, said from the rostrum while masked. “And that’s what this debate is all about. What do we do to help these defenseless families? In this moment of national crisis, we are able to afford spending three quarters of a trillion dollars on a bloated defense budget — spending that is supposed to protect our country, yet did nothing to inoculate against the most profound public health emergency in a century. But we can’t give hungry and suffering Americans $2,000? That is a moral failure for our country.”
Markey spoke in support of a procedural effort led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to block action on a defense bill until a vote could be taken on sending out $2,000 checks.
Markey criticized Republican senators who’ve complained the one-time $2,000 assistance checks he and Sanders are now pushing for — up from $600 payments in the bill Trump recently signed — will cost too much. Markey noted that the additional $464 billion to provide those higher payments is far less than the $740 billion defense bill the Senate is preparing to vote on again this week to override Trump’s veto.
“Give Americans this money,” Markey said of the $2,000 checks, which he asserted will “go right back into our economy, because people will spend this money. They need it for the necessities which are confronting their families right now. ... Let’s bring this to a vote” and “put that bill on Donald Trump’s desk.”
The pandemic, Markey continued, has exacerbated income inequality to reveal a nation where “the rich continue to get richer” while “the other America” confronts “Great Depression-level unemployment rates, and devastating loss. Where Black and Latinx workers suffer disproportionately high rates of unemployment, and their families suffer higher rates of coronavirus infection and death. Where workers get laid off while CEOs get raises and companies engage in stock buyback plans.”
Continuing the litany of injustices to befall the “other America,” Markey said it’s also a place where “residents get evicted or their electricity shut off but major corporations barely pay taxes. For those workers and families and struggling households in America, for the vast majority of America, $2,000 is a lifeline. And it is time for [Republican Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote.”
The American people, Markey said, “have a right to know, in this desperate time that we are living through, who was on their side to give their families the help which they needed.”
Markey’s plea apparently failed to sway McConnell, who on Tuesday blocked the push to immediately bring Trump’s demand for the bigger COVID-19 relief checks up for a vote, saying his chamber would “begin a process” to address the issue.
“The Senate will begin a process,” the GOP leader said. He said he plans to bring the president’s demand for the $2,000 checks and other remaining issues “into focus.”
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, that he supported the $2,000 checks.
Material from the Associated Press and prior Globe stories was used in this report.