March 1, 2021 1:31 PM CST
With the economy on the brink of collapse for so many, Republicans are totally united against a rescue plan that is the last hope to save millions of Americans from total ruin.
The stand they are taking can have far worse consequences than the last time, in 2009, that they opposed a national stimulus plan to get the country out of deep recession caused by their party’s policies. With their 2009 votes, they began a period of total obstruction in opposition to newly-elected President Barack Obama and in two years took over the House of Representatives.
This time, without the rescue plan put forward by President Joe Biden, the country’s economy could collapse entirely, and the GOP hopes to use that collapse as the reason people should vote them back into power in 2022 and 2024. Between voter suppression and economic collapse, they figure, they will have the tools to regain Congress and the White House.
The strategy is as immoral as it is dangerous, but daily it becomes clearer that this is the direction in which the Republican Party has chosen to go.
Early Saturday morning, all 210 House Republicans voted against Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that would send $1,400 checks to most Americans. Equally important it would approve hundreds of billions to boost unemployment payments, help open schools, revive struggling small businesses (40% of which may never come back), and provide financial support to collapsing state and local governments.
The rescue plan narrowly passed in the House despite the united GOP opposition, but now Republicans are building a united front against it in the Senate. Their absurd argument is that the bill is not focused enough on the pandemic.
All the disasters the bill is designed to combat are directly the result of the pandemic, which got as bad as it did because of the criminal negligence of the Trump administration.
Democrats have to hold on tight in the Senate and can afford no defections. If all 50 stick together, they can pass the bill through budget reconciliation, requiring only a simple majority. As Vice President, Kamala Harris could cast the decisive tie-breaking vote.
As a country on its knees gasps for the air it needs to recover from the worst economic and health crises it has ever faced, the GOP is apparently willing to risk everything, including its own future, to inflict even more pain and suffering on everyone. There can be no clearer proof that they have a perverse plan to make things even worse in order to lay the groundwork for their return to power.
GOP leaders rolled in a “golden calf” statue of Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference this last weekend in Orlando. The former president made his first appearance and uttered his first public speech since the insurrection he led on Jan. 6. He bragged about the unity of the Republican Party, a party united in adoration of him and his deadly politics.
Many of the keenest political observers join with people in their broad and diverse movements in believing this will not work for the Republicans this time.
“I think that the Republicans’ misread here is that it is the same (as in 2009) or that they can just oppose it (the national rescue plan) and there’s no ramifications,” said John Anzalone, the Biden campaign’s chief pollster. “It’s a different world.”
The biggest reason that the old GOP game of obstruction may not work this time around is that the economic collapse the U.S. is now experiencing makes the 2008 financial crisis look small. At the height of that crisis, no more than 10 million jobs were lost. This time, the official numbers are 22 million with the labor movement estimating more than 50 million jobs may actually have been lost.
This time, we must add to the job loss figures the horrific fact that 25 million schoolchildren are out of school and more than a half-million Americans are dead of disease, figures that were not even remotely approached in the Great Depression or at any other time in American history. The Small Business Administration says that 100,000 businesses could be closed forever.
The other thing that makes the Republican strategy of total destruction very risky for them is that overwhelming majorities of voters, including a majority of Republicans, support the Biden pandemic relief plan, including the hike on the minimum wage which the Senate parliamentarian has ruled cannot be included in the bill. Add to those majorities the business leaders and community leaders from coast to coast calling out for passage of the bill.
Just before the House vote on the rescue plan some 30 plus Republican mayors signed a letter in support of the package.
“The major part of the bill that relates to cities is sorely needed,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told the Associated Press, citing pandemic-related cuts to his city’s police and fire departments. “I don’t know any blue or red state or blue or red city that doesn’t have a revenue shortfall due to COVID-19’s fallout.”
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice also split with national Republican Party leaders and said of the rescue plan, “Congress should go big or go home.”
“We have tried to underspend and undersize what was really needed to get over the top of the mountain,” Justice told reporters during a Friday coronavirus briefing. “You got a lot of people across this nation who are really hurting.”
Top national Republican leaders are making absurd claims not based on these facts on the ground as they oppose the rescue plan.
“The swamp is back,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after last week’s vote, complaining about what he called extraordinary “non-COVID waste” and a “blue state bailout.”
“Most states are not in financial distress,” McCarthy said.
He and other Republicans apparently have not spoken to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, normally a Republican ally. They are calling for passage of the rescue plan but not with the minimum wage hike. Costco, a large normally Republican outfit, announced yesterday that it was raising its minimum wage to $16. The Chamber, like congressional Republicans, opposes Democratic efforts to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2025 from its current $7.25 floor.
The right-wing Trumpite insanity that has gripped the Republican Party was on full display at the CPAC conference where Trump himself spoke a day after his golden statue was wheeled around the convention hall for worshippers to admire.
He called for GOP unity after he attacked the handful of GOP lawmakers who voted for his impeachment or who called him out for his leadership of the deadly insurrection on Jan.6.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, another CPAC speaker and someone who can barely conceal his wish to be president, also declared that party unity around the chaos platform is paramount moving forward. Little things, like GOP lawmakers backing attempts to overthrow the government, should not get in the way, he essentially said.
“I think that Republicans need to recognize that what brings us together right now is the left-wing agenda of the Biden-Harris administration,” Cotton said. “The more that we focus on (opposing) what they’re trying to accomplish in the Congress and through the president’s executive actions, the more united we will be, and the more we will move public opinion in our direction.”
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
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