McConnell sends Senate home for two weeks without acting on pandemic

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The Senate Majority Leader is still blocking the HEROES Act, which would provide $75 billion more for public health.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent the Senate home for a two-week recess on Thursday night without acting on a new pandemic response. On Sunday, the nation broke another record for most new coronavirus cases.

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a bill to provide trillions in funding to address the public health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon the bill's introduction, McConnell (R-KY) announced he would block the legislation, mocking it as "dead on arrival." He promised in late May he would soon consider taking action on a different response plan.

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"We're taking a careful look at a fourth and final bill," McConnell said on May 29. "You could anticipate the decision being made on whether to go forward in about a month. And it will be narrowly crafted, designed to help us where we are a month from now, not where we were three months ago."

"We need a pause? Tell that to the virus," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded at the time. "Is the virus taking a pause? Is hunger in America taking a pause?"

Now, more than a month later, McConnell has not introduced any legislation to address the still-growing crisis. On Thursday, he announced that the Senate would hold only brief "pro forma" sessions until July 20. His office did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that McConnell plans to attempt to negotiate and pass some sort of bill during the three weeks between that day and the planned August recess.

His inaction comes as the United States broke its record for highest seven-day average of new cases for the 27th day in a row on Sunday. More than 2.9 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 129,938 have died. Hospitals in some states are running out of capacity to treat the spiking numbers of patients.

Had McConnell's Senate Republican majority passed the HEROES Act at some point in the past 52 days, it could have provided $75 billion for tracing, testing, and treatment. The bill also would have ensured hazard pay and child care for essential workers and an emergency exposure control plan to protect them in the workplace.

Instead, the Senate spent much of the past several weeks on confirming Donald Trump's judicial nominees and other political appointees.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.