GOP Senate spends last days of 2020 approving Trump judges — but not COVID relief

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Mitch McConnell has filed cloture on five more Trump nominees — but not pandemic relief.

With a Friday deadline looming to pass government funding and pandemic relief, the Republican-controlled Senate is devoting this week to confirming more of Donald Trump's judicial nominees.

On Monday, the Electoral College voted 306 to 232 to elect Joe Biden — a margin Trump deemed a "landslide" in 2016. So with just a few days remaining in the lame-duck Trump administration and the 116th Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to get every last possible Trump judge confirmed.

On the Senate's docket this week are five nominees: lifetime appointments for one circuit court judge and three district court judges, plus a 15-year post for a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge. McConnell has filed to end debate on each. He has already rammed through hundreds of Trump judges, leaving few vacancies for the president-elect to fill. He has plainly stated that his goal is to "leave no vacancy behind."

But as the economy continues to tank and new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise, time is running out for a pandemic relief agreement.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion proposal back in May, but McConnell refused to bring it up for a vote.

For months, he refused to allow the Senate to consider any relief legislation at all — a move he has defended as "the reasonable thing to do" because it "allowed us to learn the coronavirus didn't mysteriously disappear." In recent weeks, he has repeatedly tried to pass a $500 billion "skinny" bill that Democrats say would not "come close to addressing the problems."

A key provision in McConnell's proposal would provide a liability shield for businesses, making it nearly impossible for workers to sue if they get sick on the job due to their employer's negligence. He has previously vowed he will not allow any deal that does not include these anti-worker provisions.

One recent proposal included a provision to allow tax deductions for business lunches, but included no stimulus checks for workers and only a one-month extension of unemployment benefits.

Bipartisan negotiators have tried to compromise on a nearly $1 trillion agreement. But McConnell has refused to back their efforts, so far insisting instead on his own plan.

If the Senate does not act soon, Americans will get nothing this year — a huge problem as emergency unemployment benefits, paid leave, and housing protections are set to expire this month. Without action, millions could face evictions, foreclosures, defaults, and poverty.

McConnell has blocked hundreds of House-passed proposals over the past two years, instead devoting nearly all of the Senate's time to judicial and executive branch confirmations.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.