How Mitch McConnell Flouts the Will of the American People

Jerri-Lynn here. Although he’s clearly one of the usual suspects, I quibble with pinning all the blame for the flawed U.S. COVID-19 response – and the inadequate stimulus – on Mitch McConnell, odious as he is. And I suspect many readers share my unease.

By Tom Conway,  the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Originally produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Tim O’Daniel and his coworkers at Cleveland Clinic Akron General confront additional cases of COVID-19 every day in a hospital so busy it’s sometimes difficult to find an empty bed.

They’re also battling rising frustration after waiting months for comprehensive coronavirus testing and other federal resources essential to containing the pandemic.

Americans voted overwhelmingly in the November 3 election to support the nation’s health care workers and go on the offensive against COVID-19.

But while President-elect Joe Biden assembles a team of scientific advisers and finalizes his strategy for defeating the virus, there’s no reason to wait until he takes office on January 20 to begin turning the corner.

Americans can come together to demand that the Republican-controlled Senate immediately pass a commonsense bill providing coronavirus testing, contact-tracing programs and funds that states could use to give hazard pay to essential workers, like health care professionals.

Right now, one person—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—stands in the way of America’s fight against COVID-19. Instead of rushing to give Americans the support they demand, he defies the will of the people and lets the bill languish while the pandemic death toll mounts.

“We’re paying with our lives,” noted O’Daniel, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1014L, who recently lost a colleague to COVID-19. “We’re paying with our health.”

The House already approved the bill, known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which would also set workplace safety standards for the duration of the pandemic and ensure a reliable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the frontline workers putting themselves in harm’s way.

McConnell refused to take up the HEROES Act before the election—even as infection rates soared—because saving lives meant less to him than ramming through Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and cementing the court’s right-wing majority for decades to come.

“The confirmation of that justice did nothing to help the American people right now,” observed O’Daniel, who’s infuriated that McConnell and other Republican senators “can act on a dime” for partisan political gain while dithering for months on measures essential to controlling COVID-19.

“Cleveland Clinic Akron General is inundated with COVID patients right now,” he said. “We don’t see any kind of lull in the positive cases. They keep coming. We don’t see any outside help.”

It wasn’t enough for McConnell to put politics before Americans’ safety in the run-up to the election.

He’s now flouting the marching orders that American voters issued on Election Day, when they braved COVID-19 and turned out in record numbers to demand not only a comprehensive pandemic response but also decisive steps to rebuild the nation’s shattered economy.

Americans overwhelmingly favor the kinds of economic measures included in the HEROES Act, such as another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to help low- and moderate-income families make ends meet during the crisis. The bill would also extend $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits and emergency health care to millions of workers who lost jobs through no fault of their own, while also protecting the unemployed from eviction and mortgage foreclosure.

However, McConnell opposes aid to ordinary Americans—and even made the ridiculous claim that some workers would rather receive unemployment benefits than return to the jobs the pandemic took from them.

Instead of aiding O’Daniel and other health care workers overrun with COVID-19 patients, he worries about protecting corporations from what he fears will be a flood of lawsuits filed by workers and customers they recklessly exposed to the virus.

And so, although the American people want a stimulus bill to be the Senate’s top priority, McConnell and his Republican cronies refuse to act.

“They’re holding the whole country hostage,” observed Brad Greve, president of USW Local 105, which represents workers at Arconic Davenport Works in Iowa.

The company laid off more than 100 of Greve’s members in July. A few moved to take jobs in other cities. But most just struggle to get by while hoping the economy will improve and enable them to return to work.

“A stimulus program is going to have to fill the gap here,” Greve said, noting workers laid off from many other businesses in the Davenport area face similar hardships. “They need help.”

O’Daniel knows that Biden will take office on January 20 with decisive measures to defeat the virus and restore the economy.

But it angers him to think that while he and other health care workers do their part to fight COVID-19 every day, McConnell just sits on his hands as the pandemic rages. Further delay in attacking the virus, O’Daniel noted, will mean the needless deaths of many more good-hearted Americans like the coworker he’d known for 25 years.

“This can’t wait,” O’Daniel said. “We needed help a long time ago.”

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  1. rkka

    Mitch’s strategy is the same one he had at this time in 2008, and the one Bob Dole had at this time in 1992:

    Filibuster everything that moves.

    The resulting display of Dem refusal to actually wield any power helped turn the first-term midterms the rethuglican way.

    Clinton decided he’d build a legislative legacy by signing rethuglican bills like NAFTA & Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

    Obama tried that with RomneyCare, but Mitch was even more ruthless than Dole had been.

    Unless Joe fights back & goes on the offensive, I expect Mitch & the rethuglicans to hammer the Dems in 2022.

    1. 1 Kings

      And why would Joe do that? He has reached his life long ambition to have his own Presidential seal. Mission accomplished.
      He and your Reputhinks will work together, as they have for the 40 years he has been there.

    2. bluedogg

      Biden in controlled by the 1% and could care less about the people,the democrats are no different then the republicans as they drive them deeper into poverty, and the only thing that will change it is a revolution because the rots to deep for minor surgery.!!!

  2. barefoot charley

    I’m a loyal union man, but that experience deafens my ear to special pleading. This piece is tediously tendentious, eg McConnell “even made the ridiculous claim that some workers would rather receive unemployment benefits than return to the jobs the pandemic took from them.” Spoken like a privileged Knight of Labor: we know that tens of millions of Americans made better money from augmented unemployment doles than they got from their non-union, precarious jobs. Even union nobility could be expected to know that fact of post-industrial life. I wish unions would get back to putting blame on the Capitalist Class where it belongs, not on flunkies.

  3. Upwithfiat

    However, McConnell opposes aid to ordinary Americans—and even made the ridiculous claim that some workers would rather receive unemployment benefits than return to the jobs the pandemic took from them.

    That’s not ridiculous at all since working for wages is not, per the Bible, the norm for citizens; family farms, businesses and the commons are.

    Nor would an equal Citizen’s Dividend to replace all fiat creation for private interests (i.e. for the banks and the rich) be ridiculous either; it’s just equal protection under the law.

    So while unemployment benefits and time off are not necessarily ideal, it’s not ridiculous that workers prefer them to being wage slaves.

    1. Synoia

      The Bible insists that workmen should be paid for their work every day a t the end of work.

      Deuteronomy 24:15

      But thou shalt pay him the price of his labour the same day, before the going down of the sun, because he is poor, and with it maintaineth his life: lest he cry against …

      This is part of the Pentateuch, which is the part of the bible which defines the code of behavior.

      1. Harold

        It also occurs in the New Testament as: “The worker is worthy of his hire,” (Luke 10:7) and was quoted in English by Chaucer in the late 14th century (according to the reference books).

      2. Upwithfiat

        Notice the “workman” is poor and that’s consistent with being a wage-slave. But being dependent on wages was not to be the norm for Hebrews (and by extension for other Bible believers).

        Btw, I’ve heard that big business routinely delays paying small businesses for goods and services rendered – up to 90 days or so.

  4. carl

    Does the author remember way back to, oh, last month, when Pelosi stopped negotiations on the stimulus because it would help Trump? Good times.

      1. dcrane

        Both sides did it. It’s the usual Washington game of staged gridlock. GOP didn’t want to spend more/create precedent for stimulus, and Pelosi didn’t want to help Trump. She was happy to see USA deplorables get the Venezuela treatment if you ask me. “Stop voting for your dictator and maybe we’ll help.”

        1. TBellT

          Except Trump billed himself as not the normal Republican who could break certain R shibboleths and won in 2016 because of it. And it looks like he was punished accordingly for failing to live up to that image.

          Unfortunately the winners of this result are not worthy either.

  5. upstater

    It was obvious in May when HEROES was first proposed and when passed in the House that it would NEVER pass the Senate.

    What I will NEVER understand is Pelosi surely could have codified Trump’s executive orders of August into law and then thrown them over the transom into Mitch’s lap to pass or defeat. While Trump’s executive orders were very modest in scope, they surely did help some people for a number of weeks with supplemental UI, paused evictions and foreclosures.

    Wouldn’t it have been good politics to have this “bipartisan” compromise for only the executive orders with Trump before the election and have Mitch defeat it? Instead Nancy wanted to have her whole Marie Antoinette cake and eat it too (or was it ice cream?).

    Now 25M unemployed are sucking air on minimal benefits, foreclosures and evictions are set to begin and student loans will become payable. What are the chances of Biden doing anything about this before March — if he can do anything at all with his buddy McConnell?

    Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Schumer, et. al., are equally odious with McConnell.

    1. Chris Herbert

      McConnell is part of a powerful Beijing-Moscow-DC network. He could care less for the citizens. He got Mnuchin to drop sanctions on a Russian aluminum company and its kleptocrat owners, which did get a $200 million plant proposed by Rusal in Kentucky. And he got millions to put into Republican campaigns from the Russian kleptocrats who own Rusal. Putin directs where he wants his kleptocrats to spend money. The Russian bank that financed the deal also does business with the Communist Chinese state banks, who financed building ships (in China) for the Foremost shipping company owned by the family of McConnel’s wife, Elaine Chao, who happens to be head of the US Department of Transportation. Bet you didn’t know we are buddies with both Russia and China. From the book “On Corruption In America and What Is At Stake” by Sarah Chayes, a specialist in mapping networks around the world. She calls them ‘hydras’ after the nine headed monster of Greek Mythology. You should read the book. It is astonishing what our leaders do, and with whom they do it.

  6. notabanker

    More partisan drivel. Blame the other guy while Rome burns.

    Americans voted overwhelmingly in the November 3 election to support the nation’s health care workers and go on the offensive against COVID-19. Funny, I didn’t see that prop on my ballot. Perhaps if Americans felt that the Dems would solve this problem they would have installed an overwhelming majority in the Senate to overcome McConnell’s power.

    But while President-elect Joe Biden assembles a team of scientific advisers and finalizes his strategy for defeating the virus, there’s no reason to wait until he takes office on January 20 to begin turning the corner. Good to know. I thought he had a strategy prior to the election, I must have been mistaken.

    I thought Union’s had the power to strike, but that seems to not be on the table here. I suppose enough op-ed’s will get the job done just as effectively /s.

    McConnell is no doubt a huge problem, but to say any one person in the US has the power to fix this crisis or not is overwhelmingly ridiculous. More narrative building to cop out a year from now on why Biden hasn’t done anything to address COVID. This playbook is getting pretty worn. I’m quite surprised it still works on any level.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Borderline-poverty Unions without the broad Union movement community which they had in the 1950s are in a relatively poor position to strike nowadays. Especially after Reagan mainstreamed the concept of “replacement workers”. So I am not sure what various Unions could do beyond Op Eds. A strike would have to be long-planned-for and carefully planned and the time, place and reason chosen very carefully.

      Perhaps the Bernie Small Donor movement could choose to become a Rolling Strike Fund if they began to think in such terms. Perhaps they should be approached on that score.

      1. Kevin Shayne Shoemaker

        Seriously? You’re gonna blame weakened unions in 2020 on Reagan? Reagan didn’t invent or mainstream “replacement workers” Scabs have been around since the beginning of the unions and they’ll be around when they’re gone. Reagan made air-traffic controllers go back to work because they’re under the Dept. Of Transportation.

        1. Yves Smith

          Agnotology is a violation of our written site Policies. The breaking of Patco, then and now, was seen as a watershed event. The Federal government was no longer on the side of unions. This was a 180 from Kennedy, who muscled corporations to share productivity gains with workers (the Treaty of Detroit) and was prepared to pass legislation if they didn’t fall into line. Later commentators have said that Reagan goaded Patco into the strike and they were dumb enough to fall for the provocation.

    2. Kevin Shayne

      All good points….I’ve worked union for the last 12 years, most unions can’t strike anymore. They’ve lost the power they once had by getting in bed with their democrat cronies. Dems went from the party of the working class to socialist.

        1. Sue inSoCal

          Yeah. But that it were so. But I think not.

          Perhaps you’re thinking of corporate socialism? The kind the monied get that is underwritten by taxpayers?

  7. Sean

    I thought the gop won the senate and gained seats in the house? Not sure how that translate to a mandate for giant stimulus.

    1. Jeff

      The Republican candidates who won don’t represent unemployed constituents? Oh wait, never mind. They only consider donors their constituents. The plebes can starve for all they care, amiright?

  8. Daniel Raphael

    The last thing the two-party electoral casino is intended to embody in legislation, is “the will of the American people”…unless, of course, you understand that the only “people” who are effectively recognized as such, are well known to the denizens of Congress and White House. Anyone who does not live in Golden Book fairyland where the policeman is your friend, God is in Heaven, and liberty crowns the good from sea to shining sea, know full well that the main occupations of the dwellers in DC’s power marketplace are self-enrichment and doing deals for future cushy positions. That’s about it. They enjoy playing at power contests, too, but that’s just a feature of the Punch and Judy routine played out for the benefit of the rubes back home. If you want to know who “the American people” are to the laughing likes of Obama, Clinton, and the GOP bottom-feeders, just follow the money. That’s where you’ll find the hands they shake as they get their take.

    1. juno mas

      Yes, exactly. It must also be stated that the US Government is NOT majoritarian. The Senate gives equal representation to each state, when, in fact, a majority of the nations population lives in a few states (NY, FL, TX, CA, etc.). It’s very easy to thwart majoritarian issues in the Senate (which requires super majority–60 out of 100 Senators) to override presidential vetoes. The Senate also has outsized influence on confirmation hearings—and when those hearings are held. (See: ACB.)

  9. Bob Hertz

    Conway is a fine stalwart guy, but some of his claims do not hold water.

    Sending more money to the unemployed will not create more hospital beds (or to be more precise, more doctors and nurses….the current shortages are of personnel, not beds.)

    Some firms will not be rehiring even if the economy gets better. This may not be true of Arconic Works, but it is true in the hospitality and travel industries. The economy is changing very rapidly in some areas.

    There is not an easy answer. Rahm Emmanuel went on TV saying that out-of-work cooks and waiters should go to programming school. This particular idea may be flawed but this is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that is needed. We could consider a new GI bill for vocational education, free tuition plus a stipend for adults who may have children.

    1. orlbucfan

      Rahm Emmanuel and the rest of the Third Way cabel have stunted this country since Clinton. Hopefully, semi-senile Byedone will avoid him like the plague he is.

    2. Upwithfiat

      We should consider that unethical financing leads to unjust outcomes.

      We should also consider that, per the Bible, being dependent on wage is not the norm ANYWAY, but family farms, businesses and the commons.

  10. Altandmain

    I feel like the author is a partisan attack piece more than anything else. Anecdotally, I did know someone in the US who described how their union leaders insisted on endorsing Clinton over Sanders.

    In the past, I’ve noted that too – the Democrats deserve as much blame as the GOP for our situation. They don’t have an industrial policy and seem in denial as to how the loss of manufacturing has hurt the American people. IN this regard, the Democrats may actually be worse than Trump.

    This author seems more intent on blaming Trump and the GOP than anything else. That’s consistent with what he has written before.

    Our problems are caused by both parties. The GOP is awful. But so too is the Democratic Party. Pelosi for example also stonewalled a stimulus.

    McConnell needs to be removed from power for the good of the nation. So too do Pelosi, Biden, etc. The American people need real change, not 2 oligarchy owned parties.

    1. TBellT

      My thinking is we tried an outsider President and he did jack shit on stopping austerity politics. What a waste of 4, now probably 8 years.

  11. Susan the other

    This era is gonna ago down as the Great American March of Folly. There is simply no point left to financial extraction and exploding inequality. Unless Mitchie and his pals want to have their barns burned down they should realize that people have had it. I think the Republican Party is bound together at this point by embarrassment. They’ve stubbornly made the biggest human mess in modern history and they have no excuses. But worse than that – is the Vichy Left who enabled them. No doubt for big bribes. Last year there were angry, nasty protests outside the gates to Mitch’s house in Kentucky. But Mitch changed nothing. Mitch might be politically impotent – he’s just doing what the Senate/Oligarchic consensus tells him to do and he makes no personal comment – Mitch could be a much better guy than we will ever know just as Nancy might be one of the worst Quislings in history. We just don’t know. And the fact that we do not know means our system of government is Not Democratic. It is deceptive at best. We all belong to the Not Democratic Party. And we all get the expected results.

  12. Hayek's Heelbiter

    When will people finally understand that the US (and the UK for that matter) is NOT a democracy, but an oligarchy papered over with ballots.

  13. rjs

    the “American People” have no will…if more than two could be in agreement on the same things at the same time, McConnell would be powerless…

  14. Leftie

    “Americans can come together to demand ” HUH ? Please explain to the seventy two some odd MILLION folks how were going to “come together” around anything. Me thinks that ship sailed !

  15. Sound of the Suburbs

    “There is no way we are going to admit trickledown doesn’t exist. We made it up and we’re sticking with it” US policymakers

    You know what they’re like.

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