Attention, Sen. Grim Reaper: More will die without another stimulus bill | Editorial

Posted Nov 23, 2020

The coronavirus is about to have its heyday, with the rates for cases and fatalities setting daily records, and it will literally take an Act of Congress to save American lives.

Whether this is a priority for some powerful lawmakers is a good question, however. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done nothing but mock the $2.2 trillion HEROES II Act stimulus measure passed by the House in October, and his counteroffer was a $500 billion bill that emphasized immunity for businesses that failed to protect customers and employees from COVID.

He offered no help for state and local governments. No help for housing or the food insecure. No direct help to families. Its only redeeming component was loans for small businesses, which would allow some to stay closed and contain the spread.

But now, with America crossing the threshold of 2,000 deaths per day — on track for 2,500 by January — Congress is about to go on recess, and a lame-duck president, to borrow Rep. Frank Pallone’s assessment, “has permanently clocked out.”

The only way to get through this winter is with help from Congress, because only a bold relief package can provide the money and resources that will allow Americans to protect themselves, their families, their businesses, and communities.

If we are ever going to get out ahead of the virus, Congress must reaffirm that we are facing a catastrophe, and recognize that economic stimulus is an urgent public health tool, one that will help keep people safe at home.

If we really want to turn this around, many people need supplemental benefits, extended unemployment, rental assistance, protection from foreclosures and evictions, more SNAP benefits, access to food banks, and money in their pockets.

If we really want to get through winter, our states need help to balance their budgets so they can fully fund Medicaid, their schools, their housing programs, and their police.

And if we want the flatten the curve, public health officials say we need to test up to 10 million Americans a day, with more funding for hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

McConnell, the nihilist in chief, wants to do none of that.

And with the president and his party more preoccupied with subverting elections than in saving lives, the Senator from Kentucky — the top moocher state in the country — will now take the lead in negotiations. Rarely does anything good come of that.

“McConnell is doing his Grim Reaper act again,” says Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th), who had crafted a trimmed-down HEROES bill with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that rejected by President Trump. “McConnell does nothing, then he says Democrats want blue-state ‘handouts,’ which is total crap. Red states are on fire, and this has nothing to do with preexisting liabilities. This is about pandemic relief.

“I know Republican Senators who recognize that we must do something now, and Democrats have to be willing to negotiate – maybe not get everything we want, but the most important things that we need. But it is absolutely inexcusable for us to leave town and not help people now.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7th) agreed: “For anyone with an ounce of conscience and responsibility on the (Republican) side, the needs are obvious,” he said. “But Democrats also have to recognize where we are and make the best of it. I’m willing to not make the perfect be the enemy of the good. We cannot wait until February to start this process.”

True, winter is coming and “we are about to enter COVID hell,” says Dr. Michael Osterholm, the COVID advisor to Joe Biden, his expert way of saying that a virus thrives with cold weather and low humidity and indoor gatherings.

Richard Besser, the former CDC Director and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, is more direct: The decision facing Congress will determine the value we place on human life, he wrote in USA Today.

Indeed, another spike will deliver unbearable economic distress. Up to 40 million renters will lose their homes soon, and the monthly Census Bureau survey says that the number of households that cannot afford their usual expenses just rose by 2.3 million to 34.8 million in October.

This is the cost of having lawmakers unencumbered by conscience, and as we await a vaccine, it will get worse as clusters rage beyond our control. Without immediate action, this pandemic is about to spool up its engines and let them howl.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-11-24 03:42:57 -0800