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Misguided coronavirus ‘relief’ bill fails in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Misguided coronavirus ‘relief’ bill fails in the Senate
By AFSCME Staff ·

The Senate today voted down a coronavirus relief bill that failed spectacularly to meet the current moment and was really about providing cover to vulnerable Republican politicians.

As the COVID-19 death toll approaches 200,000 and the economy is in a state of collapse, the proposal submitted for a vote by Senate Republicans in an act of political theater was an abnegation of responsibility by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his caucus.

“This bill failed to pass the Senate because it falls unconscionably short of the kind of relief package we need to help working families get back on their feet and revitalize the economy,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders in a press statement. “The bill snubs the unemployed and deserts workers on the front lines, while shielding big corporations from liability. It fails to provide any new flexible aid to states, cities, towns and schools, at a moment when essential public services are threatened and public service workers are getting pink slips.”

The McConnell package, which failed to clear a 60-vote threshold, ignored the fiscal emergency facing states and localities due to budget shortfalls and collapsing revenues caused by the pandemic. It provided no new aid to state and local governments to maintain essential public services. Instead of helping and protecting working families, it was designed to shield corporations from their responsibility to keep patrons and employees safe. It gave the wealthy additional tax breaks, while snubbing millions of unemployed Americans.

AFSCME members are proud to serve their communities, especially in a time of crisis. As nurses, EMS personnel, teachers, custodians, sanitation workers and more, we continue to do essential work on the front lines. The Senate must do more than pay lip service to these everyday heroes and immediately pass a relief bill like the House-passed Heroes Act, which includes at least $1 trillion in aid to states, cities, towns and school districts, increases Medicaid payments to states and protects workers on the front lines.

Without such federal aid, women – and especially women of color – will be disproportionately affected. Nearly 60% of public sector employees are women; as state and local revenues plummet, the number of public sector jobs lost will dramatically increase in coming months.

“This Senate vote wasn’t about helping or empowering vulnerable families; it was all about providing cover to politically vulnerable senators,” Saunders said. “But voters are smarter than that. They know a phony half-measure when they see one. Come November’s election, they will punish those politicians who ignored their suffering and hardship, who walked away in this hour of urgent need for our families and communities.”

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