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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is shown in this file photo.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton blasted Democrats on Monday for blocking a Republican-backed coronavirus stimulus package, saying they should not "dither while Americans die."

"The United States is in the middle of a global pandemic, probably the worst public health crisis in over 100 years that this country has faced. Every minute matters. Every hour. Every day," he said.

"Yet, where are the Democrats?" Cotton asked. "The Democrats have refused to even start debate -- to even start debate -- on legislation that would help the American people and our economy survive this crisis, that would provide over $3,000 to your average working family in just the coming weeks."

During a 10-minute speech on the Senate floor, the Republican from Dardanelle also blasted a 1,400-page House Democratic draft coronavirus bill containing a number of items he said were not germane to the current crisis. He periodically dropped a sheet of paper to the ground as he spoke.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

"Why would they risk your life and your loved ones' lives and your job and your lifetime of retirement savings?" Cotton asked.

Democrats, he said, want to advance an agenda that has nothing to do with the current pandemic.

The Democrats' "ideological wish list," Cotton said, included mandatory diversity and inclusion initiatives for corporate aid recipients, curbs on greenhouse emissions, a $15-per-hour minimum wage, student loan forgiveness and a bailout for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Democratic strategy, Cotton said, is endangering Americans' physical and financial health.

"It is disgraceful and it is dangerous to the lives of our people and to their economic well-being," he said. "It's time for the Democrats to get serious and do their job."

Once he'd finished, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed agreement with "what Sen. Cotton from Arkansas" had said about the Democrats' approach.

"It's dangerous, I think it's disgraceful, it's irresponsible and it's not going to work," Graham said.

Earlier on the Senate floor, Cotton also expressed displeasure with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, shortly after the New Yorker used parliamentary procedure to prevent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, from speaking.

"Oh, come on. This is bulls***," Cotton said, while standing off camera.

At one point, he also clashed with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. The Ohio Democrat was criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for traveling to Louisville for a March 13 event as the House was considering previous coronavirus-related legislation.

Asking Brown to yield, Cotton questioned whether McConnell's absence that day had caused any delays, suggesting that the House didn't forward the bill to the Senate until a few days later.

When Brown continued criticizing McConnell for his trip to Kentucky, Cotton interjected: "Where has the House been for the last week?"

"I'm not yielding now, Senator," Brown said. "I know you always want to do Trump, the president's bidding. I have the floor and I will keep the floor."

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Rogers, was concerned by the lack of movement on the legislation, his spokesman, Patrick Creamer, said Monday.

"It's fair to say he's definitely frustrated and he's eager to get this approved so we can give some assurances to a very anxious American public," Creamer said. "That's certainly something we need to address quickly."

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said this isn't a good time for partisan rancor.

"It is a trying time for everyone ... the unknowns and the uncertainty," Gray said. "Let's take the D and R [label] off of it and just pass good common-sense policy that will help us through these times."

As the nation grapples with this crisis, the public needs to see "that there's leadership going on and that the work of the government's being done and that we can put the differences aside," he added.

A Section on 03/24/2020

Print Headline: Cotton speech puts Democrats at fault

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