Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill Doesn’t Go Nearly Far Enough.
The gaping hole in the plan to deal with this pandemic has got to be addressed.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Democratic majority House of Representatives passed a bill designed to provide an answer to some of the glaring problems Americans are facing in response to the ever-growing coronavirus pandemic. In a twist that I’m sure didn’t surprise many, the bill did not go nearly far enough.
The New York Times addressed what is probably the most significant issue with the plan that Speaker Pelosi was quick to praise: Employers with more than 500 employees were exempted from providing their workers with paid sick leave.
The editorial board at the Times writes:
“In fact, the bill guarantees sick leave only to about 20 percent of workers. Big employers like McDonald’s and Amazon are not required to provide any paid sick leave, while companies with fewer than 50 employees can seek hardship exemptions from the Trump administration.”
At a time when workers across the country are trying not to panic about what they are going to do if they’re forced to take time off of work if they get sick with this virus, Democrats have in the House have used the leverage they hold as majority to pass a bill that guarantees sick leave to only twenty percent of workers. Amazon, a company that paid zero dollars in taxes is going to be exempted from providing their employees with paid sick leave. Employees — it’s worth noting — who will be handling packages that are shipped all across the country, and will be less likely to take the necessary time off if they get sick because they know they will lose the paycheck they rely on.
As The New York Times points out, Republicans and the White House also bear responsibility for this bill considering these exemptions were the only way to ensure that the bill — which can only be described as a frankly dangerous embarrassment — had bipartisan support. That being said, we must also remember that this is an instance where Democrats should have put the health and safety of the American people above their bipartisan goals.
It’s certainly a given that Republicans would not have voted for something stronger, but it should go without saying that the Democratic majority in the House could have passed something far more substantial without them. Not only that, but both Republicans in the House and in the Senate when it moved to them for voting would then have been forced to go on the record voting against the health and wellbeing of the American people at a time when virtually everyone is paying attention and demanding action.
In another intelligent point from The New York Times, the editorial board writes that “paying sick workers to stay at home is both good policy and good politics”. During one of the most critical election years in American history, House Democrats had a chance to demonstrate true, unapologetic leadership at a time when not just the country, but the entire world is watching. Failure to treat this pandemic on the scope it deserves now makes them culpable for the consequences of this incredibly weak legislation when they simply did not have to be. Democrats have once again squandered an opportunity to use their power against the pressures of this administration, even while knowing that President Trump is likely more worried about his reelection chances than he is about the safety of the American people. Instead of using the upcoming election to put pressure on Republicans, the caving of Democrats when they didn’t need to is about as predictable as the Republican resistance to put people over profits.
Unfortunately, this Coronavirus bill is yet another example of what ultimately happens when business has the government in the palms of their hands. No amount of public pressure on company policy will make up for government legislation in a situation like this, and it will be fascinating to see how the American people respond in the coming weeks.
Summing it up best, The New York Times editorial board finished with:
“Companies should be required to provide paid sick leave to every worker as a standard cost of doing business, and they certainly should be required to do so in the midst of a pandemic. The House’s failure to require universal paid sick leave is an embarrassment that endangers the health of workers, consumers and the broader American public.”
At a time when people throughout the country are looking to leadership for action and peace of mind knowing that their government is taking the appropriate steps, the House of Representatives has failed miserably.