The U.S. Senate has always considered itself the elite body of Congress.
With their six-year terms that at least partially insulate its members from the need to constantly be in campaign mode like the lowly members of the House of Representatives with their measly two-year mandates, Senators have prided themselves as the more deliberative body ready to quash any rash populist actions that the young whippersnappers on the other side of the Capitol building may try to sneak into legislation.
Unfortunately, in a crisis such as America currently faces as the COVID-19 virus begins to take its exponential toll on both the population and the economy of the country, a slow and deliberative pace is not the optimal manner in which to address the mounting damages.
That was painfully obvious when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) faced such a torrent of derision for his decision to adjourn the Senate this past weekend while members of the House worked until the wee hours of Saturday morning crafting a relief bill for individuals and small businesses whose livelihoods have been overturned as quickly as if a tsunami had suddenly flooded their lives.
Despite the fact that the House bill included such urgently needed provisions such as guaranteed free testing for the virus at the center of the crisis, Speaker McConnell was not inclined to spend the weekend in Washington DC working on solutions and being at the ready to help move the process forward through the Senate.
The missing sense of urgency in the Senate has continued this week as the GOP members of the party have slowed the process of crafting a bill acceptable to both chambers of Congress and both political parties by including such obviously unacceptable provisions as a half a billion-dollar slush fund to be used at the discretion of the Trump administration to dole out to any oligarch that they may want without any real supervision.
Now, after Senate negotiators have finally eked out a deal for legislation that is the best compromise that Democrats can currently wrangle from their Republican counterparts and are set to vote on it, word comes that Speaker McConnell considers the Senate’s work done and is planning on sending members back home for an extended month-long recess.
Yes, while so many Americans are sheltering in place, except for those deemed necessary for essential services, and Donald Trump is champing at the bit to reopen the country by Easter against the advice of all medical experts, McConnell is planning on sending the people necessary to respond quickly to new developments in the crisis back home for a leisurely one-month paid vacation after today’s expected Senate vote on the stimulus package when he’s not even willing to include mandated paid sick leave — or the needed universal healthcare coverage in the coronavirus relief bill they are considering.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) couldn’t believe her ears when she heard of McConnell’s plans and quickly took to Twitter to express her outrage at the dereliction of responsibility that the Senate Majority Leader is contemplating in this time of dire need.
The Senate might ADJOURN FOR A MONTH after this bill?
This is completely dangerous and unacceptable. We HAVE to be able to respond to people’s needs.
People don’t have this time. Even IF the Senate can even return on the 20th (big IF) that may not be enough time to solve May. https://t.co/O5XnubG0l1
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 25, 2020
At times like this, it’s easy to distinguish the comfortable fat cat politicians at ease with their senses of privilege and the wealth that they have amassed while in office — some under questionable circumstances — from those who are truly in Washington because of their sense of public service and patriotic duty.
Raise your hand if you think that any Senator not in quarantine from exposure to COVID-19 should remain in Washington to address the financial and economic fallout from a disaster growing exponentially worse every day and to prevent any further damage from the bumbling of the incompetents in the Trump administration.
At least we have representatives like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to hector and shame the feckless Republican Majority Leader and his compliant minions. Let’s not forget which politicians rose to the challenge and which treated the crisis as just another day in their privileged lives when voting by whatever means may still be available in November.
Original reporting by Travis Gettys at RawStory.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.