With the hasty, hypocritical business of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court completed, the Republican-led Senate has gone into recess for the next two weeks — meaning there will be no action on a new economic relief bill before the election. The move by majority leader Mitch McConnell leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to the financial ravages of the pandemic — even as the Trump White House has declared that it is no longer working to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Over the weekend president Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows said flatly of the administration: “We are not going to control the pandemic.” Meadow’s remarks are consistent with messages from Trump and his quack medical team that they will be pursuing a strategy of “herd immunity,” the scientifically unsound notion that letting the virus rip through the country, until it starts to run out of new potential victims, will cause infections to taper off. The only certainty about such an approach is that it would doom hundreds of thousands of Americans to die of a disease that has already killed 230,000. Assuming that surviving a bout of Covid-19 conveys lasting immunity (and that is significantly in doubt) roughly 1.4 million Americans would have to die to achieve herd immunity.
With the White House now surrendering the to the pandemic, Congress might at least be expected to step up and help Americans grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic-led House did its part, passing a $3 trillion relief bill in May, and even a scaled down $2 trillion bill in October. Their HEROES Act would have sent Americans a new round of relief checks, funneled additional support to small businesses, renewed $600-a-week in expanded unemployment benefits, and steered billions to local governments to keep vital personnel on on staff.
The urgency for relief is uncontested. As the benefits of the CARES Act have dried up more than eight million Americans have been pushed into poverty. The pandemic is bringing budget crises to state and local governments across the country. And more than 17 million Americans are behind on their rent or mortgages.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought compromise with the White House across months of negotiations. But McConnell — whose focus on packing the courts with arch-conservatives has been monomaniacal — never moved a relief bill through the Senate, and sort-circuited any hope of a deal on Monday by declaring a recess in the Senate until November 9th.
The election is now a week away. And the closing message from the Republican party to American voters dealing with a once-in-a-century health-and-economic crisis is clear: You’re on your own.