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14 Mar, 2020 09:26

Do-nothing Mitch? McConnel takes flak for keeping Senate in recess after House passes coronavirus aid bill

Do-nothing Mitch? McConnel takes flak for keeping Senate in recess after House passes coronavirus aid bill

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnel is taking heavy fire for keeping the chamber in long recess even after House approval of a bipartisan bill on emergency relief to coronavirus epidemics.

McConnel took a hands-off approach to this week's work on federal response to the disease, allowing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate what a bipartisan approach to the emergency would look like. He agreed to cancel Senate recess next week, but gave senators a long weekend.

The coronavirus relief bill has been passed on Friday evening in a 363-40-1 vote (independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan voted "present") and has received the stamp of approval on President Donald Trump's Twitter account. And some people say McConnel's refusal to at least reconvene the Senate early is nothing short of treason and murder by inaction. "What Moscow Mitch is doing is criminal and deranged. He's a national disgrace," one commenter said.

Less over-the-top criticism came from Democrat officials. House minority leader branded McConnel's attitude "remarkably irresponsible and out of touch." Senator Kamala Harris said he should cancel the weekend and immediately vote on the bill.

While it is highly doubtful that McConnel's decision was made on an order from the Kremlin, the outrage, even if highly partisan in nature, is easy to understand. Washington's example of dealing with the coronavirus has not been stellar, to say the least. When poor people cannot afford even getting tested for the disease, less so staying self-isolated at home, delay even by a day may have a profound impact on the number of people affected by the virus.

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Anger directed at McConnel was further fueled by how he spent his free Friday. He attended an event in Louisville with Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, one of the judicial appointees of President Trump that McConnel helped push through nomination hearings. He used the occasion to make a few shots at Schumer and Democrats in general for subjecting "brave public servants" to "the media circus and subjected to partisan attacks."

The Senate leader seems to be impervious to the criticisms. Responding to the passage of the coronavirus relief bill, he said senators "will need to carefully review" it before convening next week, where he believed they would "act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses." McConnel and his critics probably have different definitions of swiftness.

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