The Senate fiddled around the edges of the vast social and economic crisis gripping the nation, passing a tiny fix to the small business loan program first passed in the CARES coronavirus response bill in March. It allows recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans more grace time to hire employees back to receive loan forgiveness, and allows a larger percentage of the loans to be used on nonpayroll overhead. But that’s all Sen. Mitch McConnell is willing to do right now.
His Republicans still haven’t decided whether at least 37 million people being unemployed is a crisis worthy of their attention. After all, they have jobs. They have homes—at least two homes in most cases. They don’t have to worry about paying for groceries or medical care. Or access to coronavirus testing before they go back to work. So they’re going to wait until the last possible moment—when enhanced unemployment benefits end at the end of July—to do anything more. That is, unless they face an unrelenting assault from House and Senate Democrats to act more urgently, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either.
The big issue for Republicans is how to help people, but not help them so much that they’re able to protect their lives. They’ve all completely bought into the idea that people have decided they’d rather not work and get all that sweet unemployment money than go out into public, where they have a much greater chance of getting the coronavirus and spreading it to their families. Because of course that’s what Republicans think. The plebes should be willing to risk their own lives so that Republican senators can get haircuts and sandwiches. Priorities.
“We’re never going to recover economically from the pandemic if everybody is at home watching Netflix,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told Politico. “There’s some inclination that we may be willing to taper it off rather than end” the beefed-up unemployment, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt said. “But that may not be good enough for Democrats, so it could be that it just goes away.” If Democrats aren’t willing to let their constituents go just a little bit hungry, or get one more month behind in rent, or forego more medical care, then Republicans aren’t interested in helping at all.
What they really want is their own comfortable lives to continue as they always have. They’re buying into the Trump gospel that the key to their remaining in power after November is “restarting” the economy and forcing everyone back to work. Or maybe they think the key to their reelection is killing off all the people who would vote against them in November.