Democratic lawmakers in the Senate blocked a Republican amendment to the American Rescue Plan of 2021 that would have barred convicted murderers such as Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from receiving stimulus money from the federal government.
The Boston Herald reported this week that Tsarnaev, who amazingly received a $1,400 COVID-19 relief payment last summer, was ordered by prosecutors to return the money in a court filing on Wednesday. In the filing, prosecutors argued that the money should be instead used as restitution to his victims.
The inmate — who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 terror attack that killed three and injured hundreds more — owes more than $101 million to his victims but has only paid $2,202.03 so far, according to Fox News. His death sentence was overturned in 2020, but an appeal seeking its reinstatement is currently before the Supreme Court.
Though unsettling, the fact that a known terrorist received money from the government as a part of a coronavirus relief package is not a surprise. Last March, before the rescue plan was passed, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) warned that murderers like Tsarnaev would be unjustly awarded taxpayer money as a result of the bill, Fox News reported.
"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, murdered three people and terrorized a city. He'll be getting a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the Democrats' 'COVID relief' bill," Cotton wrote.
Fox News noted that Cotton, along with fellow Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), offered an amendment to prevent payments from being sent to prisoners, but it was rejected on a party-line vote.
Cotton's and Cassidy's opposition could be considered disingenuous, however, since both lawmakers previously voted in favor of issuing two stimulus checks — totaling $1,200 and $600, respectively — to Americans without excluding prisoners. Cruz, on the other hand, voted against both bills.
After passing the Senate by a 50-49 vote, the bill moved to the House, where it passed easily, with only one Democrat joining Republicans in opposition. President Joe Biden then signed the bill into law on March 11.
The COVID relief payment issued to Tsarnaev is only part of the $21,071 he has amassed in his inmate account while awaiting a decision on his death penalty. Tsarnaev has received $11,230 from the Office of Federal Defenders of New York and thousands more from individual donors.
In the Wednesday court filing, federal prosecutors sought all of the money.
“By Congressional mandate, the United States has a statutory duty to collect restitution owed to crime victims,” acting U.S. attorney in Massachusetts Nathaniel Mendell stated in the motion. “Further, the Crime Victim Rights Act affords victims of crime the right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.”