It’s been 11 days since the House passed its next $3 trillion effort at saving the nation’s people and economy in this pandemic. In those 11 days, the Senate has done a whole lot of nothing besides posture, hold hearings for more deplorable judges, and a handful of confirmations.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell in fact is still posturing, saying that there will “likely” be another relief bill “in the next month or so,” but it “will not be the $3 trillion bill the House passed the other day.” A week and a half ago, to be more precise. That’s while states face hundreds of billions in shortfalls. California alone is looking at a $54 billion budget deficit with a June 15 deadline for figuring out the next fiscal year’s budget. The next fiscal year for many states is July 1. So states don’t really have a “month or so” to find out whether help is on the way.
While that’s brewing and the death toll continues to climb, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, are insisting that even when corporations are responsible for those deaths—like by reopening before its safe to do so, and requiring that their employees risk their health to go back to work—the companies cannot be held accountable for the deaths. That includes nursing homes, which now account for roughly 40% of the deaths as far as we know from problematic reporting from states.
That’s what Sen. John Cornyn of Texas appears to be working on now with McConnell. They say they won’t protect the bad guys, carving out cases of “gross negligence,” for example—though when you’re telling people to come to work in a pandemic it’s hard to know what is more gross. “We should not put our health care workers in an impossible situation where we ask them to do everything they can to help and then we punish them by subjecting them to litigation when somebody claims that they could or should have done better,” Cornyn said about his efforts on the Senate floor last week.
That, by the way, totally mischaracterizes the effort. It’s not the healthcare workers Republicans are trying to protect here, and in fact the HEROES Bill does recognize them by requiring they get hazard pay. No, who McConnell and Cornyn want to protect are the corporate owners of the healthcare facilities in question, not the people providing care.
Meanwhile, what McConnell has planned for next month—which is after the Senate returns from recess next Tuesday—is a defense authorization bill for the new fiscal year and a public lands package. “The Senate may also take up further responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including modifications to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program,” Roll Call reports, “though no final agreement was at hand before senators departed for Memorial Day.”