Friday, May 1, 2020

Let's get 435 idlers back to work!

By Thomas Corcoran
Congressional Correspondent
with additional reporting from Hacky Carp in Old Sludgebury, Mass.

Despite the ravages of the current coronavirus pandemic, and the utter ineptitude of the U Bum Administration in responding to and protecting us from its relentless depredations, every day millions of Americans go to work to keep us alive.

Every day millions of health care workers from eminent department heads to janitors brave the virus to deliver critical care to the afflicted.  Every day police, EMT, and firefighters respond to emergencies that may threaten their own lives (except in Rancho Redneck, California, where the police are otherwise engaged in beating the crap out of black 14-year-olds suspected of . . . possession of cigarettes).

Every day Colin and Naomi and thousands more put on the aprons and stick their cash drawers in their registers at the Star Market down the street so that yours truly can have uninterrupted access to the necessities of life, although they do need to restock the Hostess Twinkies, hint, hint.

Why won't Nancy Pelosi get Congress back to work?
But there's one group of supposedly essential workers who don't feel any need to show up at work to do their jobs.  They call themselves the “House of Representatives.”  They're not in session and there's no reasonable expectation that they will be anytime soon.

Any reason why they, unlike the shelvers at the Star keeping us well-supplied with all nineteen varieties of Doritos, are slacking off?  Let's ask them:

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, told reporters Tuesday morning that after consulting with Congress’s attending physician and studying Covid-19 numbers in Washington and nearby suburban counties of Maryland and Virginia, the leaders no longer felt comfortable summoning lawmakers back to the Capitol. He said they hoped to return once they were ready to consider another pandemic relief package in the coming weeks.

By the way, just like the Star Market in Boston, the supermarkets, drug stores and Costcos in the Washington, D.C. area remain open for business, despite the risks that proved too terrifying for members of the House.

Nor, sad to say, is this the usual standoff between reactionary Republicans and timorous Democrats (well, it is but we'll get to that later).  Even the progressive stalwarts are campaigning hard to . . . stay home:

The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which counts nearly 100 House Democrats as members, had been preparing to send a letter on Tuesday opposing the decision and urging leaders not to reconvene until remote voting and hearing capabilities were in place. 

We'll get to the remote voting stuff shortly, but first let's consider what's at stake here, starting with 65,000 dead, over 1 million infected, and 36 million unemployed, a number not seen since the Great Depression (which may have to be renamed if this keeps up).

Then let's remember that we have an utterly dysfunctional, corrupt, authoritarian Executive headed by a corrupt incompetent drug-addled bigot.  That's not good either.

Add to that the imminent specter of millions of more jobless and destitute due to the collapse in funding for state and local governments and institutions like the Postal Service, and you've got a situation that calls for immediate Congressional action.  They know that:

Democrats were still drawing up their proposals on Tuesday, and leaders have said it will most likely include a significant increase in funding for state, local and tribal governments, as well as additional resources for the Postal Service, food assistance programs and election funding.

Now none of this can wait, and unless the House is in session either live or remotely none of this can be passed without unanimous consent, which we predict is not readily attainable in a body whose membership includes 187 or so, depending on who was sentenced this week, Republican assholes.  Thus all prior emergency funding bills have required House members to traipse back to Washington to vote.  So far they have survived the ordeal.

In the meantime, Mitch McConnell, apparently bored by endless rounds of lovemaking with his lovely wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has called the Senate back into session to ram a few more reactionary judges through before he loses his rock-hard but tiny majority.  He's already told Dems he's not going to fork over another dime without another sweaty battle.

If the Democratic House were in session they could call Moscow Mitch's bluff and pass a bill preventing the layoffs of millions of state, local, and postal workers.  They could then return home and let Mitch squirm.  That would be what Republicans do to Democrats, but it would require real voting.

Now if the Democrats are really so fearful that they cannot return to Washington to do the jobs they were elected and are paid to do, there is an alternative: remote voting.  If we trust the Internet tubes with billions of dollars of transactions every day, can't it get 435 votes tallied accurately?

Of course, the Democrats can't get their act together on this one either:

The delay will also give House leaders more time to try to reach a bipartisan agreement on rules changes that would allow remote voting and hearings for the first time in history. Democratic leaders were hoping to build Republican support for their plan to permit lawmakers who could not or did not want to travel to Washington during the pandemic to designate another member to vote by proxy in their stead, and a bipartisan task force working on the issue met again on Tuesday. 

Bipartisan agreement?  With Louie Gohmert and Gym Jordan?  You've got to be f***in' kidding me.  In fact, the Democrats could have passed whatever remote voting rules they wanted to the last time they voted but did not want to offend the tender sensibilities of their always polite and cooperative Republican colleagues.

Why not?

But he [Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer] also said any decision to adopt a remote voting policy should be bipartisan, and made in consultation with Republican leadership, a position he said he had shared with the Rules Committee. “We don’t want that to be perceived as trying to get some partisan gain by providing for that alternative,” Mr. Hoyer said, adding that he had been in touch with Mr. McCarthy. 

Yeah, that would be awful.  Maybe not as awful as reducing millions of laid-off state and local government employees to immiseration, but still pretty bad.

So if the House won't meet in person or authorize meeting and voting by Internet, it is basically not going to get anywhere with the legislation that the nation needs, not after the next meeting of the bipartisan task force or the appearance of a herd of rainbow unicorns, but right now.  They actually know this:

Many are wary of continuing with the current, ad hoc arrangement, in which their leaders and White House officials have privately negotiated and written trillion-dollar relief bills with little consultation, and presented them for a vote as take-it-or-leave-it propositions.

But as long as House Democrats refuse to do what the $14 an hour employees at the Star Market are willing to do – their jobs – they are going to be in the same position with respect to Mitch McConnell as Elaine Chao.  Except this time he's not faking it.

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