Republicans like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito need to dry their crocodile tears about a lack of bipartisanship related to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that was approved by the Senate in the wee hours Friday morning. We saw plenty of shared political ingredients in the pie that was passed along to the House, some of it coming from Capito, herself.
But, still, at the end of the voting, not a single Republican had found the courage to cross the aisle and stand for many in the American family who are hurting.
Sorry, senator, we have seen this movie before and you are on the wrong side of history, playing narrow-minded political games while the country’s economy falters and stands at the precipice of a double-dip recession.
The size of the challenge ahead is monumental, and it needs an equally sized response. Go big or go home, senator.
We remember the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an emergency response early in the Obama presidency to the Great Recession. The bill passed the House with no Republican votes and later the Senate with only three Republicans voting in with the Democrats. Then, too, calls for bipartisanship had slowed the process and succeeded at scaling back the package – just as what is being asked today.
We also remember the legislative sausage-making with the Affordable Care Act, a nine-month odyssey from one committee to another, pushing multiple other issues to the back burner while Republicans played a game of obstruct and delay.
When it passed, it had exactly zero Republican votes. Democrats had been burned.
Well, this time around, Democrats are mindful of Republican gamesmanship and are in no mood to put their hand in that fire again. While the Senate now turns its attention to a trial of the former president, impeached a historic second time, the House takes up the work of legislating the Biden bill. That work is projected to take two weeks.
Why the hurry? Well, how about housing? A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed that tenants who lost jobs in the pandemic had amassed $11 billion in back rental payments. Moody’s Analytics, meanwhile, estimated that renters owed $53 billion in back rent, utilities and late fees as of January. Other surveys show that families, increasingly pessimistic about making next month’s rent, are cutting back on food to pay bills. No lobbyists outside their door, waiting to take them to lunch.
What about unemployment?
January employment numbers suggest the economy is stalling if not reversing course. Critical to the local economy, as Capito should know, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 61,000 jobs across the country atop 536,000 lost in December. If you think it’s cold outside, the winds have been brutal for restaurant workers and live entertainment employees during this pandemic.
Also, a widespread vaccination program – as Biden proposes – is critical to getting kids back to school, parents back to their jobs and the economy on solid ground. In January, the U.S. counted 9.1 million fewer jobs than a year earlier – consistent with a severe recession, experts say.
And Capito is crying over a lack of bipartisanship?
For the record:
λ During the amendment phase in the Senate, Capito and Manchin both voted to create a grant program to aid food service and drinking establishments affected by the novel coronavirus. It was a Republican idea. The vote was 90 yeas to 10 nays.
λ The two also voted – along with all senators – for an amendment by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, that would bar legislation that would increase taxes on small businesses during a national emergency.
λ Also passed, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Todd Young, a Republican, will block illegal immigrants from receiving direct tax-based aid payments linked to COVID-19.
λ And on a 99-1 vote, an amendment sponsored by Manchin places a limit on the annual income an individual can earn and receive a Covid-19 stimulus payment. This was an item on the wish list of the 10 so-called “centrist” Republicans, including Capito, who pleaded their case with the president in a much-publicized Oval Office meeting. And they got what they had asked for.
And yet, when push came to shove, Capito and 49 other Republican senators voted against the bill.
Because? Because Republicans remain obstructionists. Apparently, it is all they know – as history has shown.
And there, in the middle of that crowd, big tears in her eyes, stands West Virginia’s junior senator.