Sen. Mitch McConnell’s game plan for the next big coronavirus stimulus bill became a little clearer Monday. After several days of railing against “blue state bailouts” and saying the states should just go bankrupt, drawing the ire of governors and a few of his Republicans senators, he’s now saying he’ll take the aid to cities and states hostage. Democrats can have it, he says, as long as he gets immunity from liability for companies that reopen too soon and make their workers—including healthcare workers—or customers sick.
That’s something that the Trump administration has been kicking around as well. Never mind the people it might kill, just as long as nobody is held responsible for those deaths. “We probably will do another bill. What I’m saying is it won’t just be about money,” McConnell said. “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it.” Never mind the body count.
He’s backed off the “send the states into bankruptcy” plan a bit, now saying: “I’m open to additional assistance. It’s not just going to be a check, though, you get my point?” McConnell said. “We’re not writing a check to send down to states to allow them to, in effect, finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.” He also said: “The fundamental point I was trying to make is that we’re not interested in borrowing money from future generations to help states solve problems that they created themselves,” McConnell said. “The bankruptcy suggestion would have been optional anyway. I wasn’t assuming many of them were going to take that option.” But it’s absolutely fine to steal a functioning government from future generations through massive tax cuts that starve it.
Here’s the thing though: McConnell is in no position to dictate the terms this time around. The Paycheck Protection Program with its “small business” loans in the big $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was replenished last week with an interim infusion of funds, has proven to be not very good at what it was sold as: keeping small businesses—and their employees—afloat through the crisis. Too many very big businesses exploited it and too many small businesses have been left behind. It’s not doing the job McConnell promised.
He’s trying to ease his way into the reopening of the government that Trump wants, and he’s doing it with a diabolical scheme to allow businesses to get away with killing people. That’s not a bargain Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has to make.