By Robert Reich
Senate Republicans’ shameful priorities are on full display as the nation continues to grapple with an unprecedented health and economic crisis.
Mitch McConnell and the GOP refuse to take up the HEROES Act, passed by the House in early May to help Americans survive the pandemic and fortify the upcoming election.
Senate Republicans don’t want to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, even though unemployment has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression.
Even before the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. Now many are desperate, as revealed by lengthening food lines and growing delinquencies in rent payments.
McConnell’s response? He urges lawmakers to be “cautious” about helping struggling Americans, warning that “the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern.”
McConnell seems to forget the $1.9 trillion tax cut he engineered in December 2017 for big corporations and the super-rich, which blew up the debt deficit.
That’s just the beginning of the GOP’s handouts for corporations and the wealthy. As soon as the pandemic hit, McConnell and Senate Republicans were quick to give mega-corporations a $500 billion blank check, while only sending Americans a paltry one-time $1,200 check.
The GOP seems to believe that the rich will work harder if they receive more money while people of modest means work harder if they receive less. In reality, the rich contribute more to Republican campaigns when they get bailed out.
That’s precisely why the GOP put into the last Covid relief bill a $170 billion windfall to Jared Kushner and other real estate moguls, who line the GOP’s campaign coffers. Another $454 billion of the package went to backing up a Federal Reserve program that benefits big business by buying up their debt.
And although the bill was also intended to help small businesses, lobbyists connected to Trump – including current donors and fundraisers for his reelection – helped their clients rake in over $10 billion of the aid, while an estimated 90 percent of small businesses owned by people of color and women got nothing.
The GOP’s shameful priorities have left countless small businesses with no choice but to close. They’ve also left 22 million Americans unemployed, and 28 million at risk of being evicted by September.
For the bulk of this crisis, McConnell called the Senate back into session only to confirm more of Trump’s extremist judges and advance a $740 billion defense spending bill.
Throughout it all, McConnell has insisted his priority is to shield businesses from Covid-related lawsuits by customers and employees who have contracted the virus.
The inept and overwhelmingly corrupt reign of Trump, McConnell, and Senate Republicans will come to an end next January if enough Americans vote this coming November.
But will enough people vote during a pandemic? The HEROES Act provides $3.6 billion for states to expand mail-in and early voting, but McConnell and his GOP lackeys aren’t interested. They’re well aware that more voters increase the likelihood Republicans will be booted out.
Time and again, they’ve shown that they only care about their wealthy donors and corporate backers. If they had an ounce of concern for the nation, their priority would be to shield Americans from the ravages of Covid and American democracy from the ravages of Trump. But we know where their priorities lie.