Thursday, December 31, 2020
U.S. Officials Say Covid-19 Vaccination Effort Has Lagged
“We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better,” said Moncef Slaoui, a leader of the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development and distribution.
With distribution of a coronavirus vaccine beginning in the U.S., here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:
- If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
- When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated? Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
- If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, but not forever. Here’s why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill. But what’s not clear is whether it’s possible for the virus to bloom in the nose — and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others — even as antibodies elsewhere in the body have mobilized to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine whether vaccinated people are protected from illness — not to find out whether they could still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccine and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to be hopeful that vaccinated people won’t spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone — even vaccinated people — will need to think of themselves as possible silent spreaders and keep wearing a mask. Read more here.
- Will it hurt? What are the side effects? The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection into your arm won’t feel different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects does appear higher than a flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. The side effects, which can resemble the symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and appear more likely after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest some people might need to take a day off from work because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, about half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is mounting a potent response to the vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity.
- Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell's enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed“
Opinion | What It Takes to Heal From Covid-19
By Mara Gay
“I am one of millions of people still fighting to regain their full health months after surviving Covid-19. But this is not a story about sickness. This is a story about the small army of people who are helping me heal.
There are the pulmonologists, a team of two brilliant, brave women who have treated Covid-19 patients in the I.C.U. throughout the pandemic. One of them is around my age — early 30s. “You will get there,” she assured me recently, as though she had read my worried mind. Our faces were masked, but I could see the confident smile in her eyes. “It’s just slow,” she said, using profanity that I can’t repeat here but that made me laugh.
There are the physical therapists. Two times each week, Noah Greenspan and Marion Mackles of the Pulmonary Wellness Foundation cheer me on as I step onto a sharply pitched treadmill, hooked up to oxygen and other machines, and climb what I swear feels like a mountain.
I am acutely aware that I have received care and support that many Covid survivors don’t have access to. Beating a novel disease in a broken health care system means finding the right doctors and asking the right questions. That takes professional skills, time and resources that many people don’t have.
I also have good health insurance and was able to take paid time off from work, no questions asked. I have an acupuncturist. About once a month, I’m able to get a lymphatic massage, aimed at reducing the lingering inflammation in my throat.
To take our lives back, many Covid-19 survivors need more help. There is plenty that the incoming Biden administration and others can and should do.
Survivors need access to top medical care from the doctors who know this disease best, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Many providers with the most experience in treating Covid-19 patients and survivors are based in New York. But with the disease spreading uncontrolled across the United States, the need will be widespread.
Many survivors, like me, will need physical therapy, and likely emotional support as well. Though the Covid-19 survivor groups that have popped up in recent months have been a good resource for many people, they can also be overwhelming and aren’t a substitute for individualized care or dedicated research efforts.
Above all, these survivors need access to new and safe treatments that can help in their recovery.
Many of us were in perfect health before Covid. Some of us are athletes. Now, many months later, many are living with a constellation of symptoms that most people would consider intolerable. For some, it is shortness of breath. For others it’s brain fog, or headaches, or nerve pain, or digestive issues.
Over the past year, many of us have watched family and friends recover from the virus that ripped through our bodies. We have seen politicians who mocked mask mandates quickly recover after receiving experimental antibody treatments, even as many people were denied any treatment at all when they first became ill.
We are angry. We are scared. We are grateful to be alive. But many of us are still in the battle of our lives.
When you are fighting a serious illness for a long time, it can be a hard and lonely place. But at least once in their lives, most people will find themselves in a soul-shaking season of trauma, tragedy or loss. It could be a sickness or a shooting, an accident or the loss of a great love, a betrayal, the death of a child. When you are in your darkest winter, you’ll find strength from the people who are willing to go to the hard, messy places with you until you come out on the other side.
This year, many people have walked through that season with me. Some had been friends since before we were old enough to drive. Others I had never met before.
They pushed me to keep going in those moments when I wanted to give up. They prayed with me, and cried with me, and checked in on me. They coaxed me into taking up yoga, a form of exercise that I had long resisted but that has done for me what many medications could not. They cooked my favorite foods. They walked me to the emergency room. They made sure my prescriptions got to me, which in one case involved a boat. They stood with me in the middle of the street when I stopped to catch my breath.
Among my favorite possessions now is a hot pink hand-painted card made for me by Chelsea, my college roommate, and her 3-year-old daughter, Maya. Chelsea also happens to be a health care worker, and is a huge support. “Tía Mara,” the card says. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
You don’t have to wear scrubs to bring encouragement and hope to someone who is suffering.
One day this summer, I was sitting alone in a frigid Manhattan emergency room when I saw a man standing in the hallway outside, waving at me through the glass.
I recognized him instantly. Not even an hour earlier, we had walked into the hospital together, two strangers, afraid, stepping into a place we hoped we would never need. I wondered if he was still struggling with the effects of Covid-19 months later, like I was.
When I waved back, he put his hands on his heart, stared into my eyes and nodded. It was as though I could hear him saying, “You can do this. I am with you.”
I am feeling so much better these days. I am running again, and breathing easier all the time. I am stronger every day, and well on my way to recovery.
But I can’t do it alone. None of us can“
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
A Few Notes About the Georgia Runoff
"Georgia voters have begun early voting in the state’s U.S. Senate January runoff that will determine the balance of power in Washington. Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are in tight races with their GOP opponents Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively. Neither candidate was able to get to the 50 percent threshold on Election Day, which is why the runoff is taking place. More than 2 million people have already voted so far and activists on the ground are continuing to help folks who haven’t cast a ballot get to the polls.
There are a lot of moving pieces and stakes in this race, so The Root is breaking it all down for you to get a better grasp of what is happening.
Under Georgia state law, candidates for office need to get 50 percent of the vote to win. If they do not, it triggers an automatic runoff. As The Root previously reported, Warnock, who is running against Sen. Loeffler, led all of the challengers in his jungle primary (read our explainer on what that is) and some of his Democratic opponents were encouraged to drop out so that Warnock could reach the 50 percent threshold, making a runoff unnecessary. No one dropped out. Even if all of the other Democratic contenders dropped out, that would have accounted for 15.5, if you add up all of the percentages of votes they got. That would have given Warnock 48.4 percent in total. Neither Ossoff, who political observers say has the more challenging race, nor Purdue got to 50 percent.
Then, there is racism, as political consultant Christine Beatty told The Root.
“They were put in place for African Americans, especially in Georgia, to discourage them from voting again,” she said. “We’re one of the few states with a runoff. The majority is usually the majority vote, whoever gets the most votes wins. The history of that is steeped in racism.”
According to CNBC, the original intent of the law was to weaken the power of Black voters after Reconstruction. It first started with the county unit system, formalized in 1917 but introduced informally in 1898, which gave more voting power to mostly white and less populated areas of the state. Votes were allotted to candidates by county, essentially making it an Electoral College system through which to elect candidates to office. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the system was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Georgia State Rep. Denmark Grover blamed his 1958 loss to Black voters, thus introducing the runoff system in the legislature in 1964 after he won back his seat.
The runoff system became law and stands to this day.
Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project told The Root that she and other activists are getting death threats for organizing people to vote in January. People claiming to be members of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the secretary of state’s office have regularly stopped Ufot and other organizers. Ufot has security at her home and the organization has a detail at her office.
“I want to be really clear: The work that we do is important,” she said. “I’m very proud of our team. I’m very proud of where our state is right now. We will not be deterred, but I am hyper-aware of the waters that we’re swimming in. There’s been a ton of de-escalation training, so we aren’t encouraging our people to be heroes. We aren’t encouraging our people to be martyrs. I would argue that the work of the president, these two Senate candidates, Loeffler and Perdue, and national Republicans and right-wing media are absolutely fanning these flames. And it’s a problem.”
Republicans control the U.S. Senate, and if Democrats do not win both of those seats, the GOP can make life for president-elect Joe Biden very miserable—just as they did for his former boss, Barack Obama. So far, Democrats have 46 seats to the GOP’s 50. It is important to note that there are two independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with Democrats regularly, essentially giving Democrats 48 seats. If Warnock and Ossoff win, that will give Democrats 50 seats and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to break any ties, making her office uniquely important and influential.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has essentially been the leader of mass obstruction when it comes to pushing forward any progressive legislation. Hundreds of bills continue to linger in the Senate because McConnell simply has not called votes on them. Democrats have long called for Americans to get upwards of $2,000 checks in pandemic relief (the House approved the amount yesterday), and the Equality Act, a bipartisan gun control background check bill, as well as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 all remain in limbo. With Democrats in the majority, those bills can move for a vote.
Beyond that, a GOP Senate will have power to counter any nominations Biden has for the judiciary. Even with a House controlled by Democrats, unless the Senate approves the nomination, Biden’s hands are tied. Georgians, if they send Ossoff and Warnock to Washington, will give Biden the power he needs to pass legislation under his agenda.
They already have. Nearly 2.1 million people voted early so far; around 4 million voted early in November. Part of the challenge is voter fatigue, something Ufot said there is no getting around, acknowledging that the job of organizers is to stress how crucial this runoff is.
“We’re giving rides to the polls, trying to eliminate that barrier for people participating and direct voter contact, she said. “We’re going back to the people who we touched throughout 2020, it’s our 10 touch strategies. We try to touch the people that we’ve registered to vote 10 times, reminding them to vote, reminding them to bring people with them for the polls. And so some of those touches include phone calls, text messages, and high-quality face-to-face conversations on the doors. We’re sending out postcards. We have these amazing digital ads and all of it is designed to be just this side of annoying, so that folks know how important this moment is and that they show up to vote.”
Andra Gillespie, assistant professor of political science at Emory University, told The Root that while numbers are pretty high for this runoff, generally it is very difficult to get folks out a second time—especially for voting outside traditional cycles. Voters who come out for runoffs are usually the types of die-hard, regular voters who show up at primaries and vote in municipal elections where people vote for mundane ordinances in months when people aren’t paying attention. It’s a rarefied electorate, Gillespie said.
What is making this runoff competitive, Gillespie said, are the activists who converted all of the state’s unregistered people of color into voters.
“It’s that activity that started to change the demographic nature of the electorate, which made Democrats more competitive,” she said. All of a sudden, those double-digit margins by which Republicans were winning started to shrink to single-digit margins, then started to shrink within a point or two of winning races and culminated in Joe Biden being able to pull off a narrow victory in the state. Georgia is diverse, but that diversity wouldn’t have translated into political power if somebody hadn’t identified the fact that they would all be potential voters who weren’t voting, and got them to vote.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2019 that Georgia could become a majority-minority state by 2028, with much of the growth coming from Black Americans moving back to the South. Then there is the growing immigrant population, a demographic Stacey Abrams targeted aggressively in 2018. Xan-Rhea Bilal, a field organizer for Georgia Muslim Voter Project said her organization has been engaging Muslim communities in Atlanta and the surrounding counties since 2015. She educates people in mosques, schools, or any place she can target Muslims. Seniors and kids soon-to-be 18-years-old are especially critical in her outreach.
The number one challenge Bilal has is shared by other organizers: fatigue.
“Georgia isn’t really used to these types of elections,” she said. “We’re not used to being a swing state.”
Warnock comfortably led the pack in his jungle primary, while Ossoff barely trailed Perdue in his race. Beatty, the political consultant, said Loeffler is the more vulnerable of the two GOP senators and Warnock has a story that most Georgians can relate to.
She cites his television ads, candor and how he preempted Loeffler’s attacks in his first series of television commercials. “It is a great strategy. It gives you a leg up,” she said. “He stayed consistent. He really has taken his message to the heart of who he is, which is born and raised in Atlanta. ‘My father is in the military. My mother’s working class. We are from here. I know what the struggles are of folks here and I can relate. I’m going to advocate on your behalf.’ His messaging is great.”
Beatty has more concerns for Ossoff, who she said will have a tougher time with getting crossover voters because Purdue is a more formidable candidate.
“Loeffler is an easier target to overcome for Dems with Independents,” she said. “That’s really what it is. Are you going to motivate your base to the polls and then can you get Independents to cross over. I think it’s easier with Warnock to do that.”
This runoff is new turf for everyone, so there is really no telling how voters will cast their ballots. Activists have told The Root over the past few weeks their top strategy is turnout—in record numbers. Again.
Regardless of who wins, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it is very possible that the losers would file for a recount of the votes if the outcomes are close. More lawsuits could ensue, making Georgia a microcosm of Election Day where people in the state—and the nation—will have to wait until the dust settles. To top it off, all of these possibilities could happen while Trump continues his tantrum.
This is just a hypothetical situation, of course. The main thing to understand is that Georgia is in play for Democrats and these types of close races are likely to continue, so consider this election cycle a test run for the newest swing state in the union."
Trump allies launch desperate final efforts ahead of congressional confirmation of Biden win
"President Trump and his allies are growing increasingly desperate as Congress prepares to formally receive the votes that will confirm his election loss next week, filing lawsuits against nonexistent entities and even Trump’s own vice president as they try to come up with new ways to overturn the vote.
One lawsuit filed last week by a conservative group that supports Trump targeted, among others, the electoral college — which does not exist as a permanent body. Another lawsuit filed Sunday by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and several Arizona Republicans against Vice President Pence attempts to get a federal judge to expand Pence’s power to affect the outcome.
Pence will preside over next week’s joint session of Congress, where the electoral votes cast earlier this month will be read aloud. President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, reflecting Biden’s 81 million votes nationwide as he secured the White House.
Trump has been working to incite his supporters over the ceremonial milestone, falsely portraying it as a final showdown in his battle to alter the election’s outcome. “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it,” Trump tweeted Sunday.
There were some initial signs Tuesday that Trump’s last-ditch appeal may be faltering, even among some of his most fervent supporters.
In an interview, Stanley Grot, a Trump elector in Michigan, a longtime Republican and the clerk of the Detroit suburb of Shelby Township, said he does not plan to come to Washington.
When the electoral college met Dec. 14 to certify Biden’s win in the state, Grot joined other Trump electors in Lansing to register their continued support for the president in a state where Trump has exerted especially strong pressure on supporters to overturn the vote. But Grot said Tuesday that there is nothing more he can do next week.
“It is out of our hands now,” he said.
He said if Congress certifies Biden’s victory, he would “not be in a position to challenge anything,” adding, “we always must respect the office of the presidency.”
Another Michigan elector for Trump, Timothy King of Ypsilanti, also said he has no plans to travel to D.C. — though he said he will not be persuaded of the legitimacy of Biden’s win regardless of what happens in Congress.
“I don’t think Joe Biden would be the legal president if they go through with this,” the retired autoworker said. “People are not stepping up and doing their constitutional duty,” he said, to examine unverified claims of fraud that he and others allege took place.
King is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Michigan election results that has already been rejected by a federal judge; he and his fellow plaintiffs have asked the Supreme Court to review the matter.
Also Tuesday, the Georgia secretary of state’s office announced the results of a signature audit conducted of mail-in ballots from the November election cast in Cobb County. Working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the secretary of state’s office said it reviewed signatures on 15,118 ballot envelopes, finding none were fraudulent and that all but two included signatures that matched that of the voter on file — demonstrating that election officials who examined the signatures before the vote had a 99.99 percent accuracy rate. Of the two ballots, one was signed by a voter in the wrong place and the second was improperly signed by a voter’s spouse. The voter indicated in an interview with state officials that he filled out the actual ballot.
Republicans’ ability to challenge the congressional process is limited.
Any member of the House, joined by a member of the Senate, could contest the electoral votes, citing an 1880s election law. But the challenge will merely prompt a floor debate followed by a vote in each chamber. Trump will inevitably lose that vote, given that Democrats control the House and a number of Senate Republicans have publicly recognized Biden’s victory, including Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), who has called Trump’s refusal to accept the election dangerous.
Even in the unlikely event that Trump were to prevail in the Senate, where Pence would be in position to cast a tie-breaking vote if needed, the challenge still would fail given the House vote.
Still, a number of Republican members of the House, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and egged on by the president, have said they plan to challenge votes in swing states where they have made unfounded allegations that the vote was marred by fraud.
One incoming Republican senator, newly elected Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, has said he is considering signing on, as well. He would do so over the opposition of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leading Republican senators, who have said it would be politically harmful to force Republicans to decide whether to back Trump out of loyalty in a vote bound to fail.
Even so, experts fear the vote could cast a cloud over Biden as he prepares to take office Jan. 20, creating the misimpression that his victory was in some way contested or that he was installed by congressional Democrats.
Next week’s ceremony will come at the end of a grueling period in Congress in which Trump angered members of his own party by vetoing a major defense bill and initially balking at a coronavirus relief measure that had been negotiated by his own aides. The legislative maneuvering may also dampen Republican enthusiasm to back Trump’s futile effort to overturn the election.
The lawsuits are designed to get a judge to expand Republican options in Congress next week — or to create the impression that the law might allow additional options.
Trump and his allies have already sought judicial intervention in dozens of suits filed since the election and have met no success. More than 90 state and federal judges, appointed by members of both parties, have rejected challenges to the election by the president, his campaign and his allies.
In some cases, judges have found that the party objecting to the election did not have standing to sue, or inappropriately challenged the voting procedures only after the election.
But in many of the suits, judges evaluated Trump’s claims of fraud and found there was no evidence to support them.
Gohmert’s suit, which was joined by a group of Republicans in Arizona including the chairwoman of the state GOP, argued that the law that governs next week’s congressional action is unconstitutional because it impinges on Pence’s sole authority to recognize electors. The suit argues that a federal judge should order that Pence can choose to recognize alternate electors who support Trump should he wish to do so.
Legal experts said the lawsuit was meritless and would probably be dismissed by a federal judge for multiple reasons.
Among other things, the suit envisions competing slates of electors from which Pence could choose. However, despite intense pressure from Trump, no state legislature actually agreed to set aside the November vote and appoint alternate electors. Instead, informal groups of Trump supporters met in some state capitols earlier this month and appointed themselves electors, in ceremonies that had no force of law.
In a statement, Gohmert nevertheless asserted that seven states had sent “dueling slates of electors” to Washington.
“We continue to hold out hope that there is a federal judge who understands that the fraud that stole this election will mean the end of our republic, and this suit would insure that the Vice-President will only accept electors legitimately and legally elected,” he said.
The case, which was filed in Texas, has been randomly assigned to District Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee who took the bench in 2018.
Gohmert and his fellow plaintiffs have requested a hearing no later than Thursday and a ruling by the judge by Monday. In a filing Tuesday, their lawyers revealed that they had contact with attorneys for the vice president and the Justice Department and were unable to come to an agreement with them about the suit, including about when Pence must file a response. They asked the judge to order Pence to respond by the close of business Wednesday.
In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, also a plaintiff in the suit, called it a “friendly lawsuit.”
“It’s all on the shoulders of Vice President Mike Pence, and we have this lawsuit to assist him in being able to do his job and to do it well,” she said.
The suit highlights the awkward role Pence will play next week, when, by law, the task of presiding over the last step before Biden takes the oath falls to the vice president. A Pence spokesman did not respond to questions about the suit. A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.
“This Gohmert suit has had me scratching my head, and I don’t think the courts will take it seriously,” said Trevor Potter, a Republican election law expert who has been reviewing such cases as a member of the nonpartisan National Task Force on Election Crises.
Among other problems, Potter said the remedy Gohmert is seeking “would stand the Constitution on its head. It would effectively deliver to the vice president the right to determine who won the presidential election. If the vice president has authority to pick his favorite electors, then you wouldn’t need a Congress or a Constitution.”
Norm Eisen, a Democrat who is counsel to the nonpartisan Voter Protection Program, called the Gohmert lawsuit even more “absurd and extreme” than those that came before.
“This attempt to throw out the entire legal structure which has guided American presidential elections for almost 150 years is utterly unfounded,” Eisen said. “It is destined to end up where sixty-plus other cases have: the legal ash heap.”
Eisen’s group has been monitoring the efforts closely in the courts and in key states and has worked out an expected timeline of events on Jan. 6, when the two chambers will meet at 1 p.m.
They confidently predict that the day will end with Biden officially being declared the president-elect.
“If they choose to waste the time of Congress and the nation in the middle of a health and economic crisis, it will be for no purpose at all, except to stroke the president’s ego,” Eisen said."
McConnell makes the best argument for electing Democrats in Georgia
The Post reports, McConnell "on Tuesday blocked consideration of a House bill that would deliver $2,000 stimulus payments to most Americans — spurning a request by President Trump even as more Senate Republicans voiced support for the dramatically larger checks.”
Later on Tuesday, McConnell set up votes on a bill for the $2,000 checks that included a commission on (nonexistent) voting fraud and total repeal of the exemption for Internet companies from material others post. (The latter, ironically, might knock the current president off social media.) This was plainly a ploy to give Republican cover to vote for a bill with the $2,000 that would never pass.
As this drags out, one thing is crystal clear to voters: “Democrats are pushing for an up-or-down vote on the House bill, while more Republicans acknowledge a need for larger stimulus checks.” So what is the problem? McConnell.
So far, a flock of Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri and both Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia say they want to vote for the larger stimulus checks. McConnell will not let them. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) made clear on Tuesday: “We should not adjourn until the Senate holds a vote on both measures: the [National Defense Authorization Act] veto override and the House bill to provide $2,000 checks for the American people.” He stressed, “As we all know, the Majority Leader controls the schedule on the floor, so Leader McConnell holds the key to unlocking this dilemma.” McConnell punted, denying the motion for immediate consideration of the bill for $2,000 checks.
The question for Loeffler and Perdue is twofold. Why have they opposed any stimulus bill for nine months? They seem to acknowledge they were wrong, and people are suffering and need help. It is not clear why voters should reelect lawmakers who could not see the obvious need for payments, so it is also fair to also ask them: Since everyone agrees $2,000 is a good idea, wouldn’t it better to have a Democratic majority, which has pleaded for larger checks and is ready to vote for them immediately?
I rarely quote President Trump without intent to denounce him, but here he is right: “Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “$600 IS NOT ENOUGH!” Yet again, Republicans have demonstrated (as they did in attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act) their remarkable preference for staking their political lives on measures that are both bad policy and terrible politics.
In agreeing to the $2,000 checks, Loeffler and Perdue signaled they are in a politically precarious position. Perdue’s opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, sounded almost giddy:
Raphael Warnock, Loeffler’s Democratic challenger, chimed in:
It is far from clear who McConnell thinks he is protecting by refusing a simple up-or-down vote. His right-wing members who still do not want to give Americans any money? The right-wing activists who have not cared about deficits for four years?
Whatever his rationale and whatever Trump’s motives (Revenge? Hunger for approval?), Republicans have now made clear which party cares about suffering Americans. Moreover, Trump and other Republicans pushing for larger checks have jettisoned any complaint about the incoming Biden administration’s spending proposals. They are eager to vote for more spending, regardless of the impact on the deficit."