Dear Senator McConnell,
Today marks Day 78 since the House passed the Heroes Act in response to the dual health and economic crises presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
As you know, H.R. 6800 calls for the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, additional cash payments, hazard pay for essential workers, relief for renters and homeowners, expanded food assistance, and increased aid to disabled veterans. All these provisions would help shield Americans from financial ruin as the result of a global catastrophe.
On May 15, 2020 — the day the Heroes Act was passed — the U.S. Census Bureau reported a record-breaking 16.4% drop in retail sales from the previous month. Unemployment stood at 14.7% as jobless claims topped 36 million over two months. The Federal Reserve published a survey showing that 40% of households making less than $40,000 per year suffered a job loss.
Yet despite a flurry of alarming indicators and dire prognostications, the Republican Senate majority refused to intervene. You called for Congress to “take a pause” on new relief and declared the Heroes Act a “liberal wish list” that was “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Instead of recognizing the crucial (and inevitable) relief measure in the House bill, you feigned outrage over the number of time the word “cannabis” was mentioned in the document.
Your caucus gambled with Americans’ livelihoods by kicking the can down the road for two months — and the bill is coming due with interest. Nearly a third of households were unable to pay rent in July; 40% of renters are at risk of eviction as state, local, and federal moratoriums expire with no extension in place. Enhanced unemployment benefits officially expired yesterday, though in reality payments ceased on July 25. Nearly 160,000 Americans are now dead, and the United States is no closer to having a nationwide response to the pandemic than it was at the beginning of March.
The Senate returned from its July 4th recess with a mandate to pass another relief bill before protections from the CARES Act lapsed. Remarkably, your Republican majority failed to produce a bill for until July 27 — a full week wasted despite a clear and pressing need for action. In your unveiling of the draft bill, you called on Democrats to “put aside partisan stonewalling” and “rediscover a sense of urgency.”
If Republicans feel such urgency to pass a relief bill, why did your caucus wait until the last minute to start crafting a proposal? Why did you refuse to take up the House bill for consideration? Why have you failed to meet with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the two weeks since the Senate reconvened?
If Democrats are the ones partaking in partisan stonewalling, why are the Republicans the only party with a “red line” provision? Why is that sole non-negotiable issue one that protects corporations instead of people? Why is the national debt a concern when the working class needs relief, but not when the rich want a tax cut?
The answer to all these questions is plain as day: Senate Republicans, under your leadership, are guilty of gaslighting and abandoning the people you have all sworn to represent. If you do not reverse course immediately, you risk needlessly plunging the most vulnerable of our people into an even deeper pit of despair.
The deadline has already passed. It’s time to come to the table and deal.