Tom Cotton: We shouldn't help states that are trying to stop the pandemic

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The Republican senator from Arkansas called it 'unconscionable and heartless' that states and cities tried to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggested that cities and states that took steps to curb the coronavirus pandemic are to blame for their own economic woes. And he scolded them for daring to ask for federal aid.

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, Cotton called it "totally unjustifiable" that Democrats supported funds for states and localities "who want a no-strings attached bailout" but are "preventing people from earning a living" with pandemic restrictions.

"All of these Democratic governors and mayors are running to Washington, running to their patrons like [Senate Democratic Leader] Chuck Schumer and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, demanding bailouts at a time when we should be allowing people to earn a living in a safe and responsible fashion and getting help to those who need it," he said. "That's what we should have done back in September. That's what Republicans offered at the time."

Cotton tweeted out this video of his appearance, blaming the GOP Senate's refusal to pass a pandemic relief bill for seven months on these same officials.

"Democratic mayors & governors are holding up coronavirus relief to regular Americans by demanding bailout money from their patrons in Washington," he wrote. "At the same time, those mayors & governors have prevented their constituents from earning a living. Unconscionable and heartless."

Cotton is not being honest about who is asking for help: Numerous Republican governors and mayors of all parties have also begged the federal government to help their states and cities.

In May, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion pandemic relief bill that included billions to support states and localities whose revenues dropped and expenses grew due to COVID-19 and its economic damages.

For seven months, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans have refused to even give the bill a vote, dishonestly framing the direct aid as a "blue state bailout" — even as red states were hit just as hard or harder. In McConnell's own state of Kentucky, for example, many cities faced budget shortfalls and called on Congress to pass relief to help them.

Cotton has supported the obstruction of aid, telling Politico in April, "There are a lot of Democratic senators who want a no strings attached bailout for their states because of imprudent fiscal decisions in the past. And obviously we're not going to agree to that."

From May through September, Senate Republicans refused to bring up any relief legislation at all. McConnell said this obstruction was "the reasonable thing to do" because it "allowed us to learn the coronavirus didn't mysteriously disappear."

Since that time, Senate Republicans have repeatedly tried to pass a $500 billion "skinny" relief bill that included a poison pill — a liability shield for businesses that would have made it virtually impossible for employees to sue if they get sick on the job as the result of their employer's negligence.

As early as April, Cotton was pushing to immediately reopen the economy and end business restrictions that were put in place to curb the coronavirus' spread. And in February, he pushed widely debunked conspiracy theories, baselessly claiming the virus came from a "secretive" Chinese biochemical lab.

While the virus has spread across the nation uncontrolled, with more than 189,000 total cases and 3,000 deaths in Arkansas alone, places that followed Cotton's laissez faire approach fared especially badly.

According to a November New York Times analysis, cases surged most in the parts of the country that imposed the fewest restrictions.

"States that have kept more control policies in a more consistent way — New England states, for example — have avoided a summer surge and are now having a smaller fall surge," Blavatnik School of Government public policy expert Thomas Hale told the outlet, "as opposed to states that rolled them back very quickly like Florida or Texas." Arkansas fell into the latter category.

As of Wednesday, bipartisan congressional negotiators were reportedly close to a relief deal that would not include significant aid to struggling state and local governments.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.