Menendez Teases ‘Surprise’ Senate Support for COVID-19 Aid


As he works to line up GOP support for his bill creating a $500 billion fund for states and local governments, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said he expects to have two to three more senators that have just about committed.

“One won’t be so surprising, but the other one will be,” Menendez said.

“As I continue to speak to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I am confident more will see the SMART Fund as the reasonable approach it is,” he added.

The bipartisan State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund builds upon the existing $150 billion set aside in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help states and local governments. It expands eligibility to include counties and towns with populations of 50,000 or greater—the current threshold is 500,000—ensures every eligible entity receives additional funding, increases flexibility for states and local governments to use the funds to plug revenue losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and targets additional funding toward coronavirus hot zones to combat the pandemic head-on.

Appearing with Governor Phil Murphy at the governor’s Monday COVID-19 briefing, the senior senator from New Jersey took early questions from reporters.

“There’s no question this virus began in China,” he said, though its transmission to this region came from European visitors.

He criticized the Chinese government for not being forthcoming with early information about COVID-19.

“I think China failed miserably,” he said.

Now, however, the U.S. needs to foccus on getting more people tested.

“At some point I’d like to go hug my grandkids,” Menendez said. “You need some kind of universal testing and contact tracing.”

Asked about Murphy’s efforts to wor with President Donald J. Trump and whether that helps or hurts his own Capitol Hill efforts, Menendez said, “I applaud the governor for putting New Jersey’s interests first. I appreciate the effort he’s made to get resources for New Jersey.

“I’m not making this a partisan piece of legislation,” the senator added. “I’ve purposely held it up to get [GOP] support. This is not red and blue, this is red, white and blue. …You want to see the economy thrive? You have to make sure this region thrives. We have common ground in that regard, with the president.”

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