For Americans on unemployment and struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, the CARES Act was a lifeline. The bill put an extra $600 per week in the pockets of people on unemployment, providing a necessary boost during this pandemic. However, at the end of July, the bill ran out of funding and its provisions have since lapsed. This was in spite of Democrats having already penned a law that would take over in August, the HEROES Act.
So, why was there nothing in place to keep the much-needed relief alive? And what about another $1,200 stimulus payment for working people? Not to mention the eviction protection and funding for state governments struggling through the pandemic?
Well, Mitch McConnell happened. The Senate Majority Leader has sweeping power over what legislation is brought to the Senate floor. And at the moment, he’s not allowing any bill before the Senate that doesn’t include a liability shield.
Liability Shield Blocks Relief
Mitch McConnell is on record stating that he won’t bring any relief bill to the Senate floor unless it includes one of his pet pieces of legislation. The “liability shield,” as McConnell calls it, is a law that would make it more difficult for employees to sue their employers for contracting COVID-19. This would also keep teachers from being able to easily sue schools that didn’t enforce safety measures for students and teachers.
However, Democrats are in agreement that McConnell’s liability shield is a non-starter for them. Since they control the House, this means Democrats could block any legislation that includes this shield. However, since bills must pass both the House and Senate, the division in Congress makes it impossible for legislation to progress into law.
McConnell Faces Pressure in Home State
Kentucky is feeling the squeeze of the pandemic harder than some states. The mostly working-class populace of the state is beginning to grow resentful of their Senator, McConnell, as he blocks relief that they sorely need.
While the pandemic shutters businesses and keeps people out of work in the Bluegrass State, McConnell is squabbling with Democrats. Older people are scrambling to afford Humira and Enbrel already, but they are now also facing a recession.
However, McConnell isn’t in much danger of losing his Senate seat. His challenger, Amy McGrath is a newcomer, and McConnell is framing the issue as one of classism. He emphasizes in Kentucky that he is the only Congressional leadership not from a coastal region like New York or LA.