On May 15th, the House passed the HEROES Act, extending $600/week pandemic unemployment benefits through January, preserving health care coverage for laid off workers, expanding testing and contact tracing, providing $1 trillion to keep state and local governments afloat, saving the U.S. Postal Service, and requiring the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration to issue strong, enforceable COVID-19 workplace standards.
In the nearly three months since, what have President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell done to turn this life-saving legislation into law? Nothing.
Even worse, they have abandoned negotiations over the legislation, giving up entirely on helping struggling Americans. McConnell came up with a bill one-third the size of the HEROES Act that couldn’t even get the support of a majority of Senate Republicans and then walked away. Trump seems to spend most of his time firing off inflammatory tweets while failing to actually govern and mobilize federal leadership to fight the pandemic.
So today, 30 million laid-off Americans are getting $600 less a week and falling into poverty, while the pandemic explodes out of control and the economy collapses, with GDP plummeting by a record 9.5 percent in the last quarter. Meanwhile House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are forced to bargain with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over a bill that should have become law 12 weeks ago.
This is an epic failure of leadership by President Trump and Senator McConnell. They’re modern-day Neros, fiddling while the country goes down in flames. If pandemic unemployment benefits are ever restored and our nation gets serious about fighting COVID-19 and its economic fallout, it will be because of the persistence of Democrats — and despite these white-flag Republicans.
Daniel E. Stepano