Dissent is brewing among Mitch McConnell's Republicans as fears about the pandemic's costs mount
Mitch McConnell's Republicans, especially the ones up for reelection this year, are getting antsy about the fact that they haven't done anything of substance about the coronavirus epidemic since March. Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado's Republican senator who is widely regarded as toast, has even threatened to block unanimous consent for the Senate to take Memorial Day recess. "This is no time to go home," the senator told reporters Wednesday. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we get this job done." Which will probably be trying fulfill the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's wish list of more tax breaks, removal of legal liability for business putting their employees at risk of death, and "targeted" state aid that will somehow end up in private pockets.
McConnell's conference is definitely restless, however, particularly since the House acted on another major bill last week, leaving Republicans holding an empty bag. That's even while the Senate has been in session, doing very little beyond advancing more of Donald Trump's unqualified executive and judicial nominees. "I think June doesn't need to come and go without a phase four," rescue package, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told CNN. "Optimistically, we might move before the Fourth of July," said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. "I do think we will move on phase four before the August break." August.
As if the national COVID-19 curve had stopped reaching skyward. As if 38.3 million people weren't right now officially unemployed. As if Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Dayton, and towns and cities and states weren't all furloughing public employees. Including first responders. As if there was time.
But still, there's "no urgency," according to McConnell. He's got back up on that. "I think all of us believe we need to see how the money that has gone out so far has been spent," Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said. "Until we have a real sense of what the real needs are, people are not feeling rushed to do something." Which is easy to say when you come from a state that has so few people that it's always social distanced. "I'll do everything I can on my part to stop us from going further in debt by passing out money we don't have," said Sen. Rand Paul. Which is easy to say when you're fucking Rand Paul.
The longer McConnell delays, the more desperate the country becomes. He knows that. He's honed this hostage-taking skill since he decided that the debt ceiling is "a hostage that's worth ransoming." Then it was the global economy. Now it's millions of people's livelihoods and thousands, tens of thousands of human lives.
The longer he drags this out, the more leverage he believes he'll have on Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to soften their demands, to add in more tax breaks for the wealthy and do away with protections for workers. To leave millions of people vulnerable to hunger and homelessness. To leave states and cities and towns scrambling. If there's a glimmer of hope, it's that there is definitely angst among his colleagues about all that, and they might be able to talk him into coming to the table sooner rather than later. But unfortunately for the common good, not soon enough.