The House of Representatives scrambled to pass a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill late last evening to expand access to free virus testing, provide $1 billion in food aid and extend paid sick leave benefits to vulnerable Americans.
While the bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of both parties, the only no votes came from 40 members of the GOP caucus, and the negotiations over the details of the bill — largely hammered out between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (R-Wall Street) — was stalled at various points over inconsistent signals from the White House since House Republicans would not commit to passing the bill without the support of Donald Trump.
The final bill that was passed, however, was much weaker than it would have otherwise been due to compromises made by Democrats to ensure that it would not just languish on Mitch McConnell’s desk unconsidered by the Senate, despite the grudging support of the measure by Donald Trump.
As passed, the bill inspired the editorial board of The New York Times to write an editorial lamenting the failure of the legislation to guarantee paid sick leave to any American affected by the pandemic outbreak. Analyzing the final version of the bill, The Times notes that it only covers about 20% of American workers and exempts large employers like Amazon and McDonald’s from having to provide paid leave when their employees are exposed to the virus and could potentially infect their coworkers, as well as allowing hardship exemptions to small companies with fewer than 50 employees.
“’If you are sick, stay home,’ Vice President Mike Pence said at a news conference on Saturday afternoon. ‘You’re not going to miss a pay check,'” the editorial reports.
“But that’s simply not true. Sick workers should stay home, but there is no guarantee in the emergency legislation that most of them will get paid,” it candidly notes.
The editorial board of the newspaper lays the blame on this sad shortcoming of the legislation squarely at the feet of Trump and the Republican party — “who insisted on the exemptions as the price of bipartisan support for the legislation“— because of their inexplicable intent to protect the profits of corporations before protecting the lives of their constituents.
The paper also questions Pelosi’s political strategy of agreeing to the watering down of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure quick passage in the house rather than simply passing the strongest possible protections for the average Americans and then daring the Republicans to publically declare the reasoning behind their objections to them.
“Why not pass a bill that required all employers to provide paid sick leave and then force Republicans to explain their objections to the public?” The Times‘ editorial board asks.
The conclusion of the editorial demonstrates that in times of crisis, moves that would be condemned by the GOP as creeping socialism seem much more like basic common sense when the threat of death of thousands is lingering over the nation.
“Companies should be required provide paid sick leave to every worker as a standard cost of doing business, and they certainly should be required to do so in the midst of a pandemic,” the writers rationally state.
“The House’s failure to require universal paid sick leave is an embarrassment that endangers the health of workers, consumers and the broader American public.”
The sad irony of the accomodating retreat of Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats from the stronger measures that they intended to pass before encountering pushback from the White House for economic reasons that primarily affect the wealthy and corporate interests is the fact that — despite their rush to pass the legislation in a late-night session that extended into the early hours of Saturday morning, acting as quickly as possible to help stop the spread of the coronavirus from getting worse — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent the entire Senate home for a weekend recess, ignoring the urgent need to move quickly when every day of inaction could cost additional lives, and won’t be able to vote on the bill and send it to Trump for his signature until Monday at the earliest.
This sort of professional malpractice not only demonstrates the lack of concern that the GOP has for ordinary Americans, but it also provides an additional reason to ensure that Democrats take back the Senate as well as the White House in November.
Moscow Mitch and Typhoid Trump must go!
Original reporting by The Editorial Board at The New York Times.