McConnell’s Senate Is Still Confirming Judges Rather Than Helping Millions of Struggling Americans

The GOP-led Senate voted to confirm yet another Trump-appointed judge on Tuesday. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By Keya Vakil

November 10, 2020

Instead of providing aid to struggling Americans, Senate Republicans focused on confirming conservative judges who could actually take away health care from more Americans, gut workers’ rights, roll back civil rights protections, and more.

Nearly 800,000 Americans have contracted COVID-19 over the past week, 60,000 are in the hospital, and millions remain unemployed and struggling to scrape by as the nation’s twin public health and economic crises continue unabated. But rather than pass another coronavirus relief bill to help Americans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus are focused on the only thing that seems to matter to them: confirming judges. 

The Senate on Tuesday voted 64-24 to confirm James Ray Knepp II to a lifetime appointment as a US District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio.

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Knepp’s confirmation process was quickly criticized by Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We just became the first country to pass 10 million COVID-19 cases. More than 239K people in America have died. But McConnell continues to prioritize judges,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

Knepp, previously a magistrate judge for the same court, is one of more than 200 judges confirmed to lifetime appointments during the Trump presidency. A number of those judges, including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, have been confirmed over the past six months, a period of time in which tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs, contracted COVID-19, faced the threat of eviction, and fell into hunger

Over the past several months, the Senate has had ample opportunity to enact relief legislation, including the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic-led House all the way back in May. They didn’t. Due to that inaction, the $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit expired at the end of July, depriving more than 20 million jobless Americans of a crucial source of income during the pandemic. 

The GOP also failed to offer additional stimulus money to Americans or provide schools and state and local governments funding they desperately needed. House Democrats also approved hazard pay for frontline workers, housing and rental assistance, health insurance subsidies for newly uninsured Americans, and $75 billion for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, which could have helped rein in the spiraling pandemic had Senate Republicans and President Trump prioritized tackling the pandemic. 

They didn’t, and instead, focused on confirming conservative judges, like Barrett, who could actually take away health care from more Americans, gut workers’ rights, roll back civil rights protections, hinder criminal justice reform, exacerbate the climate crisis, make it harder to vote, and restrict access to abortion and family planning.

By prioritizing their efforts to pack the courts with conservatives, the Republican Party effectively sidelined the needs of the American people, according to Whitney Adams, a 34-year-old costume designer from New York City.

“To see no action being taken and the fact that [they took] action immediately on filling the Supreme Court justice seat that [was] open hurts even more. It’s so depressing and it makes me so angry,” Adams told COURIER last month. “How is that more important than the millions of Americans who are suffering every single day and have been for over six months now? It makes no sense to me … They do not care about the American people at all.”

READ MORE: Amy Coney Barrett Could Be Catastrophic for Worker Protections and Labor Rights


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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