Senate Republicans are running out of excuses for their failure to pass critical COVID-19 aid.
In a wild display of projection, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blamed Democrats on Thursday for his own party's failure to pass a comprehensive coronavirus relief package.
Graham told a local television news station on Thursday that his "number one goal" was "another stimulus package." In a line echoing Donald Trump's recent campaign rhetoric, Graham said he expects that "as soon as the election is over, there’s going to be a bipartisan breakthrough on a big package somewhere around $2 trillion."
In reality, Democrats in Congress have spent months pushing for a vote on their own $2 trillion relief package, while Republican lawmakers have refused to play ball. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have so far refused go above a $500 billion "skinny" version of the bill.
Graham even had the audacity to suggest that Democrats are refusing to pass crucial relief for millions of Americans because they don't want to give Trump a win before Election Day. When asked why Congress has failed to pass a relief package, Graham answered, "I'll be honest with you: I don’t see much desire to help President Trump on anything, to be honest with you. It's not the money."
A Graham spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
In May, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion relief bill that aimed to address both the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll. The proposal included $75 billion for contact tracing, testing, and treatment of the virus — as well as funds to help cash-strapped cities and states continue providing basic services.
McConnell dismissed the House Democrats' relief package as "not serious," and declared it "dead on arrival" in the Senate. He has blocked any action on the relief package for more than five months, as millions of Americans continue to suffer the negative economic and health effects of the pandemic.
Democrats have even offered to find a compromise, but McConnell has brushed off calls to pass any additional legislation for months. In August, McConnell said that his party's inaction was "the reasonable thing to do," as it "allowed us to learn the coronavirus didn't mysteriously disappear."
In September, McConnell offered only a "skinny" version of the Democrats' bill. The GOP bill included provisions that McConnell knew Democrats would not be able to accept, such as stripping employees of their right to sue if they get sick and funneling public funds to private schools. Democratic leaders have slammed McConnell's bill as "woefully inadequate," and the Senate has repeatedly rejected it.
In early October, Trump blithely announced that he didn't even care about passing a relief bill before the election, and urged Senate Republicans to ram through Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation to the Supreme Court instead.
"I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business," Trump tweeted on Oct. 6. "Our Economy is doing very well. The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!"
In true Trump fashion, he quickly flip-flopped and demanded that Congress "go big!" on a relief package.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have reportedly spent weeks trying to negotiate such an agreement. But McConnell and his caucus have remained steadfast in their refusal to go higher than $500 billion — even if that means working against Trump and his administration.
"What I will put on the floor is a highly targeted half a trillion dollars. That's a lot of money," McConnell said. "I'm putting on the floor what we think is appropriate to tackle the disease."
When asked if the Senate might pass a larger bill, McConnell said: "That's where the administration's willing to go. My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go."
On Monday, Senate Republicans voted to adjourn the Senate until after the election. Unemployment rates have remained high, with more than 750,000 new jobless claims reported last week. New coronavirus cases have spiked to an all-time high, despite Trump's frequent claims that the virus is going away.
Meanwhile, Graham is trying to run down the clock on his race against Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison. Forecasters have rated the race a "toss-up," with most polls showing a neck-and-neck finish. Graham and his fellow Republicans may soon find that they can only outrun their own cruel inaction for so long.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.