U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is treating the coronavirus pandemic like he does everything else that comes before him in the Senate: politics as usual. Science and expert advice: optional.
Democrats in the U.S. House last week passed an emergency relief package to support those most affected by the pandemic’s economic toll, including guaranteeing paid sick leave for all workers, augmenting unemployment insurance, ensuring free coronavirus testing and expanding federal food assistance programs.
McConnell called the proposal, “an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances.” Which begs the question: How well does McConnell understand the circumstances? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned older Americans against flying. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, testified before Congress last week that the worst is yet to come.
Yet McConnell, who just turned 78, flew from Washington to Louisville the following day. Must have been for something critical to the nation during this public health and economic crisis, right? Nope. McConnell recessed the Senate so he could go to a party.
He had to be back in Louisville for a judge’s investiture, a ceremony for the new judge. McConnell helped get this judge appointed to the Western District of the Kentucky federal bench. McConnell was accompanied by his wife Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (possible author of “Anonymous”) and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Let’s break it down: Three Republicans ignored CDC warnings and health experts’ advice — to refrain from traveling and to practice social distancing. They did it to attend a party. That party honored a judge the American Bar Association deemed unqualified because he “does not presently have the requisite trial or litigation experience or its equivalent.”
For Chao and Kavanaugh, traveling and attending this event is profoundly bad judgment. They unnecessarily jeopardized their health, others’ health and the ability of their offices to function in the future. It should go without saying: Their offices are the highest levels of both the executive and judicial branches of government.
It’s not only reckless, but, Americans needed the federal government to act weeks ago… not next week. Every day that passes means an exponential increase in the spread of the disease, more events canceling, more economic widespread economic damage and, yes, more deaths. And he’s treating the coronavirus global pandemic like it’s just another partisan political football — where emergency funding produces political winners and losers, and McConnell will be damned if he’s going to cede any political ground.
The biggest mistake Democrats have made is having over 400 members of Congress gather for a disease-spread briefing, not respecting the social distancing advice of experts. But they’re risking their health while on the job working to protect people’s lives and livelihoods. McConnell adjourning the Senate, while Democrats continue to work, signals a complete lack of appreciation for the real world “circumstances,” which are that no one is immune to it.
In fact, I was exposed to someone who later tested positive while I was at the Speed Ball. But, also, U.S. senators, NBA players and, even, our beloved Tom Hanks have contracted the virus. The markets and economy provide quantifiable financial costs of the virus.
Satellite images show large burial pits are being dug in Iran for mass burial of coronavirus victims. Much like how President Bush’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina finally exposed the reality of his administration’s failings, the failure in this crisis of Trump and Republicans — who still insist truth and facts are optional — might finally prove to his base how feckless he is.
After all, he has planted his success on the stock market and economy. How is that working for him now? The majority leader has proven he will do all in his power — the Senate’s power — to fill the courts with handpicked conservative judges. To not show the same urgency to help save people’s lives, jobs, businesses, homes and savings is a startling political mistake and a new low. •