Other’s opinion: McConnell’s block of COVID aid hurts those already suffering

Published 6:30 am Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Free Press, Mankato

The only obstacle to Congress passing another COVID relief bill appears to be GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Food shelf lines are growing. Health care policies are lapsing. Businesses are closing. Kids are hurting.

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Yet, McConnell appears unwilling to compromise on stimulus/relief bill for reasons that are hard to imagine in light of overwhelming support from Wall Street, Main Street and even President Donald Trump. Other conservative senators like Lindsay Graham, S.C. and Kevin Krame, N.D., have signed on.

While Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially cool to a compromise as well she recently threw her support behind a $908 billion bipartisan COVID aid bill by the “problem solvers” caucus of the Senate. President-elect Joe Biden also supports the package as a transition aid bill until he takes office. The bill would extend expiring programs past the Dec. 31 deadline for the initial CARES Act money.

That’s a wise and necessary move given the nationwide spike in COVID cases and re-shuttering of some businesses.

The plan would extend unemployment payments by an additional $300 a week through March and fund the Payroll Protection Program with $288 billion.

It would also provide state and local governments with $160 billion. Another $16 billion would go toward vaccine distribution, $82 billion to education and $45 billion to transportation, childcare, rental assistance and broadband.

Pelosi has met McConnell more than half way as she came down from her $2 trillion plan when McConnell was initially proposing a $500 million plan. McConnell had earlier this summer been accepting of a $1 trillion plan until influential lobbyists got to him.

The bill doesn’t give McConnell the blanket protection of business from COVID — related lawsuits that he wanted. But it does give them temporary protection. And that’s reasonable.

Pundits say McConnell is holding back so as not to give Democrats a win before the Georgia runoff election that could decide control of the Senate. That’s a reason but not a good one.

The bipartisan bill is a solid start. Congress should pass it soon. McConnell should take down his road blocks before the semi-truck of public opinion passes him by.