Week Ending October 23, 2020

No Pandemic Aid, but Senate Drops Everything to Advance Divisive Supreme Court Nominee

  • Senate Needs to Act Now to Fund the Front Lines
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Judge Amy Coney Barrett
  • New Law Designates 9-8-8 as National Suicide Hotline Number

Senate Needs to Act Now to Fund the Front Lines

By a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate once again rejected moving the Senate Republican leadership “skinny” stimulus. The bill, rejected along party lines, was a resurrected version of the woefully inadequate and flawed package previously rejected by the Senate. Rather than encourage negotiations between the Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or take up the House-passed Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a political fig leaf for his members.

  • AFSCME Continues to Advocate for Significant Relief - In a statement in response to this sham effort by the Senate Republican leadership, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: “Today’s Senate vote was another meaningless exercise designed to present the illusion of action – nothing more. It was called a ‘skinny bill’ because barely anything was included to help Americans get through a period of unprecedented anxiety and uncertainty. It was a ploy to provide cover for senators who have turned their backs on families and communities being ravaged by this pandemic. It has nothing to do with helping vulnerable people and everything to do with protecting politically vulnerable Republican senators. … It’s time to get serious about a bill that funds the front lines, providing robust aid to states, cities, towns and schools. This is the only way to maintain the essential services that give our communities their strength, to keep public service workers on the job and to put the economy on the road to recovery.”
  • House-passed Heroes Act Would Provide Real Relief - The House passed the Heroes Act in May, which provides more than $1.2 trillion to states, local governments, and school districts, increases Medicaid payments to states and protects workers on the front lines. It also gives front-line workers premium pay, unemployment and food assistance and subsidizes 100% of the cost of COBRA health coverage for those who lost their jobs. The House has also approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal, which provides significant state and local aid. The Senate refuses to take up that bill as well.

  • Negotiations With Trump Administration Haven’t Reached Agreement – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to negotiate, pressing for agreement on relief package by Election day. One of the issues on the line is state and local assistance, with the Trump administration offering meager relief.

What You Need to Know: Time is running out for Congress to pass a COVID-19 stimulus bill that delivers badly needed relief to families and communities nationwide. For several months, AFSCME has been lobbying aggressively for a bill that includes, among many other things, robust aid to states, cities, towns and schools. This aid is essential to maintaining vital public services and health care jobs.

Additional State and Local Aid Is Still Needed

We urgently need you to call your senator. Time is running out for Congress to provide aid before state and local governments lay off more workers. 1.5 million public employees have already been given pink slips. Front-line public service workers like you are critical to fighting this pandemic and reopening our economy. America can’t do either without you.

Call the Senate: 1-888-981-9704

Tell your senator that it’s urgent to fund the front lines NOW with at least $1 trillion for states, counties and cities – including more Medicaid and education funding – for essential public services to fight COVID and re-open our economy. For more ways to take action, visit the AFSCME COVID-19 webpage.

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Judge Amy Coney Barrett

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held an executive business meeting to mark up the nomination of Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. The committee approved her along with five other conservative lower court judges handpicked by the president. During the committee meeting, the Barrett nomination was agreed to along party lines. The U.S. Senate is expected to hold a floor vote to confirm her nomination on Monday, Oct. 26.

  • Widespread Concerns – Judge Coney Barrett’s nomination is consequential and of great concern to many Americans. Her academic writings and judicial opinions suggest that she would not support positions that are fundamental to protecting union workers and working families on fundamental rights, such as access to affordable health care, age discrimination, collective bargaining, fair wages, and class actions lawsuits.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME opposes the Barrett nomination because she has expressed views as a professor and a lower court judge that do not align with the interests of labor union members. At President Donald Trump’s request, GOP leader Mitch McConnell is rushing to put her on the court before the election rather than focusing on much needed COVID-19 relief.

New Law Designates 9-8-8 as National Suicide Hotline Number

A bipartisan bill supported by AFSCME to create a three-digit number for mental health emergencies was signed into law this week. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 10-digit number — 1-800-273-TALK. The twin economic and health disasters from COVID-19 have been linked to a rise in depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. 

What You Need to Know: The Federal Communications Commission had already picked 9-8-8 as the number for this hotline and aims to have it up and running by July 2022. The new law paves the way to make that a reality. Like the three digit 9-1-1, a 9-8-8- number will make it easier for people experiencing a mental health of suicidal emergency to access timely help.

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