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Sen. Mark Kelly talks COVID-19 vaccines, minimum wage with ABC15

Trump Impeachment
Posted at 5:05 AM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 09:44:21-05

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ — Vaccinations, unemployment benefits, and stimulus checks -- now that the impeachment trial is over, the Senate is getting back to work, focusing on the best ways to provide relief to millions of Americans who are hurting right now. However, Republicans and Democrats are still fighting over the best way to help those who need it the most.

An important voice in that battle is Arizona Senator Mark Kelly.

ABC15 caught up with him on Luke Air Force Base to get his take on Tuesday.

Outside, it was the roar of the F-35 as Sen. Kelly kicked off his tour at Luke AFB. The former Navy pilot met with airmen before getting an up-close look at the fighter jets. ABC15 was the only TV station allowed on the airfield for the tour.

Inside, there was a round-table meeting with airmen, covering a wide range of topics from military funding, cases of COVID-19, and the quest to get more military members vaccinated.

Luke AFB officials tell ABC15 1,400 vaccinations have been given out on base to healthcare workers, airmen preparing to deploy, and retirees 75 and older.

Sen. Kelly says he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have made requests, asking for Arizona to get more doses of the vaccine.

"We’ve got a higher population here than our Arizona residents in the winter. When we have great weather, folks come from other states. We have to make sure we have the vaccines available to vaccinate them as well."

Funding for vaccinations is likely to be part of the next round of COVID-19 relief, but the clock is ticking on other programs like unemployment benefits. Congress must act quickly before those expire next month, but there are several key provisions still being debated. Just last week, Sen. Sinema announced she would not support the $15 an hour federal minimum wage item included in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus deal.

Sen. Kelly explains he does support the $15 federal minimum wage but says he wants to see how it's proposed in the final deal.

"The details matter," Sen. Kelly explains. "How do we phase it in? What does the legislation look like? It's important we raise the minimum wage...I've spoken to folks who try to survive, let's put it that way, on minimum wage. They try to get by, to raise a family. It's impossible. You can't work 40 hours a week on minimum wage and raise a family and have a decent standard of living."

President Biden is still hoping to pass the $1.9 trillion package, but Republicans say it's simply too high of a price tag. Instead, Senate Republicans have thrown their support behind a package that's a third of the cost.

"We'll figure out what the top-line number is here; there will be negotiations between the House and the Senate," says Sen. Kelly. "I think it's important we target the relief to where we need it the most, but the economic crisis we are still facing is significant. We're not seeing GDP growth numbers we'd like. And the unemployment rate is still high. We've got to get people back to work. We've got to get kids back in school. That’s going to take resources."