Senate Republicans have backed down on the threat to wait until after a week-long recess to consider the House coronavirus response bill, and have canceled recess. But that doesn’t mean they’re gearing up to be reasonable about protecting families from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Per multiple sources, there are 2 issues emerging as sticking points in negotiations between the White House and Speaker Pelosi on the Coronavirus aid bill: paid sick leave and abortion,” NBC’s Alex Moe tweeted. It’s a close call which of these is more shocking (without being all that surprising)—that Republicans are balking at paid sick leave during a pandemic or that Republicans are somehow turning pandemic response into an abortion fight.
The issue at play, abortion-wise, is that Republicans want to add anti-abortion language to the bill. That scans—as something ruthlessly partisan politicians with no regard for health or safety would do. It also comes in the context of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell having warned about the House Democrats’ bill—the one with the sick leave and coronavirus testing—being “an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances.”
According to the Daily Caller (no, I’m not linking), the issue was “a mandate for up to $1 billion to reimburse laboratory claims, which White House officials say would set a precedent of health spending without protections outlined in the Hyde Amendment.” So Democrats called for funding to cover laboratory costs of testing for coronavirus, and Republicans said no, because it would set a precedent that the federal government could spend money on health care without explicitly excluding abortion? IT’S CORONAVIRUS TESTING. But oh noes, it would set a precedent.
According to Politico Playbook, “The two sides resolved issues over federal funding of abortion in a separate bill that will also hit the floor.”
Then there’s paid sick leave. Which is at least a relevant issue here. In fact, it’s one of the absolute central issues: People who may miss weeks of work because they’re sick, caring for a sick loved one, or caring for a child whose school is closed should not face hunger and eviction or foreclosure for it. We should not want these people going about their daily lives infecting other people, even if we lack the basic humanity to say they shouldn’t have to suffer through working while sick.
Paid sick leave is, for the record, extremely popular with the public. Ten states and the District of Columbia, in addition to some cities and counties, have paid sick leave laws, although none of them are likely to offer enough time for someone to ride out a case of COVID-19. Eight states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws—except that the Massachusetts law hasn’t gone into effect yet.
Paid sick leave was already a dire need in this country, and now it’s a crisis. It’s one more thing keeping the U.S. from an effective response to the pandemic, as if we needed one more thing when we already had Donald Trump. Paid sick leave has always been a moral imperative and safety imperative and now for many people it is a survival imperative. And Republicans are standing in the way.
This article was originally published at Daily Kos on March 11, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.