It has been 45 days since the House passed the HEROES Act, the next round of coronavirus stimulus. In that month and a half, tens of thousands of new cases—and deaths—have occurred, as well as tens of thousands more people losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell is still refusing to act. He is refusing to bring that bill—or any other to respond to the ongoing crisis—to the floor of the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are trying to focus national attention on that by writing to McConnell demanding he act.
“The nation has seen a dramatic surge in both cases and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Adding to that pain, our economy is facing one of its greatest challenges since the Great Depression. Over one fifth of the workforce has requested unemployment assistance,” Pelosi and Schumer write. “Now is the time for action, not continued delays and political posturing.” McConnell’s spokesperson pointed The Washington Post to his statements from last week in response, demonstrating that he has no intention of acting and he won’t stop the posturing. “In July,” McConnell said last week, “we’ll take a snapshot of where the country stands, see how the jobs are coming back, see where we think we are. And if there’s a final rescue package, that’s when it will develop and it will start, once again, in my office […] the House efforts are simply not practical.” Note he’s calling it the “final package” when we’ve got no indication at all when this pandemic could end when the administration is doing next to nothing to contain it. Note as well that there hasn’t yet been a coronavirus response bill from McConnell’s office that has passed.
McConnell also laid down his line in the sand, which hasn’t changed since April: “One thing I can tell you will certainly be in the bill—it’s not negotiable—liability protection for hospitals, doctors, nurses, businesses, universities, K-12 related to the coronavirus.” Profit before people, don’t you know. While he’s including healthcare providers and education in that, he’s really talking about businesses. He, like Trump, wants them open and making money with no fear of the consequences of making either employees or customers sick. Giving this blanket liability protection would mean businesses—and schools for that matter—could ignore all the guidelines established for keeping people safe and do so with impunity.
Even as the disease is roaring back in all the places that prematurely lifted lockdowns, McConnell is pushing for even more incentives for states to reopen. He’s vying with Trump for leadership of the death cult here. Schumer and Pelosi are trying to light a fire under him: “Already, the consequences of that inaction have been dire,” they wrote. “State and local governments are struggling to provide essential services and have laid off over 1.5 million workers. Our perennially underfunded schools are fighting an uphill battle to prepare for the fall. A lack of federal resources may not allow them to safely re-open.” None of which McConnell seems to give a damn about. “As Americans struggle to make rent payments and face evictions and as our health care and childcare systems face unprecedented burdens, Senate Republicans have been missing in action at your direction,” Schumer and Pelosi write.
“On behalf of the millions of American families who desperately need Congressional action, we demand you change your mind and decide to work with us for the good of the country,” they conclude. It’s a good argument, but not likely to sway McConnell. Because he simply doesn’t care. It’s going to take more pressure than his vulnerable Republican senators seem likely to give to make him budge.