From socialized health care to a universal basic income, Republicans are lining up behind progressive policies as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
As America struggles to face a growing coronavirus pandemic, Republicans across the country are adopting and supporting progressive policies to deal with it.
"We're facing a serious health crisis, and Utahns shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and protecting their health," Utah Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted on Thursday.
Romney has been one of the leading Republican proponents of increased support from the federal government amid the outbreak, which has sidelined masses of non-salaried workers and forced layoffs, leaving untold numbers of Americans with no ability to cover their bills.
Other Republicans who have typically favored limited government interference have also shifted their stances as the virus spreads, supporting progressive policies they may have otherwise derided.
Socialized health care
Democrats have long fought for more health care for more people, while Republicans have opposed such actions as "socialized health care." But in the wake of the current outbreak, many are suddenly embracing the idea that the federal government should foot the bill for coronavirus testing for all Americans, even those without health insurance.
"You can look at it as socialized medicine, but in the face of an outbreak, a pandemic, what [are] your options?" Rep. Ted Yoho, a conservative Florida Republican, said in early March.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Saturday, guarantees free coronavirus testing for all Americans. The bill also increased federal spending on Medicaid.
The bill passed by a margin of 363-40. All 40 no votes were from Republicans.
Universal basic income
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang centered his campaign on the idea of a universal basic income, providing every American with $1,000 per month.
On Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) proposed a similar idea to help families deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
"Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy," Romney said in a statement. Romney noted that the federal government took similar actions in 2001 and 2008, adding that "the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options."
During a press conference Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the administration was "looking at sending checks to Americans immediately."
"Americans needs cash now and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks," he added.
Student loan debt
Romney also came out in support of helping students deal with the burden of college debt, a longtime progressive priority. Romney did not go as far as Democratic presidential candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have proposed forgiving all student debt.
However, Romney did suggest that recent graduates should be allowed to defer student loans for the time being. Such a move would "ease the financial burden on students entering the workforce," Romney said in his statement.
Romney also suggested adjusting Pell Grants to help students deal with "unexpected travel, housing, and storage purchases" caused by the outbreak.
Paid sick leave
Ever since Connecticut became the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave for employees, progressives have pushed for more states and localities to implement it. In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for Congress to pass a law mandating at least seven days of paid sick leave for employees across the nation.
Conservative politicians balked at the idea, and the GOP-led Congress never sent such a bill to Obama's desk.
Amid the raging coronavirus outbreak, however, Republicans seem to have had a change of heart. With schools shutting down and health experts advising anyone with symptoms to stay home from work, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that passed the House on Saturday mandates paid sick leave for some people impacted by the pandemic.
According to the Washington Post, the bill specifically provides two weeks of paid sick leave to most employees, and additional paid leave for parents of children in schools that have closed because of the crisis.
On the other hand...
While Republicans are supporting some progressive priorities, the political landscape has not completely changed.
And despite the global health pandemic, Republicans are still fighting in court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans are successful, millions of Americans could lose health insurance and health insurance companies could once again deny coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
The lawsuit is supported by a coalition of GOP-led states and the Trump administration.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.