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KY-Sen: The Nation, “Mitch McConnell’s (R) Stimulus Scam: Vaccinate Businesses, Expose Workers”

7 min read

Elie Mystal from The Nation has a new piece out about how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) wants to block businesses from being sued for putting their workers are risk during the COVID-19 pandemic:

McConnell has “insisted” that the next stimulus package will include legal immunity for businesses that open back up. He told Politico, “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it.” It’s important to understand what McConnell is proposing here: He’s saying that he will withhold aid money to state and local governments fighting the Covid-19 pandemic if the package does not include legal giveaways to protect businesses from the justice system. People have a right to sue. McConnell is not only trying to take that right away; he’s willing to hold public relief money hostage in order to do it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has taken the opposite view. She’s told reporters, “Especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients in all of this. So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability “

This is no partisan sideshow. The question of whether businesses can be sued for putting people at risk will define the extent to which businesses will put people at risk. If businesses are granted full legal immunity from private lawsuits, they can pretty much ignore public health guidance from experts and governments. They can treat social distancing as a mere suggestion. They can force sick people to come to work and not even tell their coworkers or their customers that they’re forcing sick people to come to work.

If, in contrast, businesses can be sued by employees who get sick on the clock, then businesses with competent legal counsel will be cautious about reopening until the health of their workers can be protected. They will provide testing for workers. They will be more likely to abide by the best practices suggested by experts, because “we did everything Doctor Anthony Fauci told us to do” will be one of their best defenses in court. The threat of a lawsuit is unlikely to keep businesses closed, but that threat is likely to make businesses less casual about people’s lives.

This should be a relatively easy fight for Democrats to win at the moment. “Immunity for businesses that get people sick” isn’t exactly a catchy rallying cry. But Republicans have a ringer on their side: health care providers. McConnell is trying to tie immunity for businesses that might get people sick with immunity for health care providers that are trying to save sick people.

Moscow Mitch’s longtime motive has been to fuck with the stimulus so badly that he wants to let blue states go bankrupt:

States need help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want to provide it. On The Hugh Hewitt Show on April 23, McConnell proposed another idea. Instead of more federal aid, states should cut their spending by declaring bankruptcy:

I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.”

McConnell expanded on the state-bankruptcy concept later that same day in a phone interview with Fox News’s Bill Hemmer:

We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they've made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past.

Even if it means hurting his own state of Kentucky:

“It was kind of like a punch in the stomach to read,” Joni Jenkins, the Democratic minority leader in Kentucky’s state House of Representatives, told The Daily Beast. She explained that Kentucky, like nearly every state and local government in the country, is staring down an unprecedented fiscal squeeze. With normal business and commerce ground to a halt, sales tax revenue is drying up; skyrocketing unemployment rates mean that state income tax revenues will crater, too.

The Kentucky legislature, which just recessed for the year last week, passed a one-year austerity budget in response to the coronavirus’ economic damage. The functions of government are getting hard-hit: the University of Kentucky, for example, announced this week it faces a $70 million budget shortfall and is furloughing employees.

Jenkins said that the legislature will have to reconvene if state revenues dip by more than 5 percent, which is likely. “Many of us were hoping for federal help,” she said. “I don’t see how we get out of this downward spiral without some help from the federal government.”

A similar feeling was expressed by the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, at a press availability on Wednesday. Asked about McConnell’s comments, Beshear said he hoped to discuss the matter with him personally. But, said the governor, “every state in the country is going to be in desperate need of federal aid. If the federal government doesn’t provide that aid, it’ll further exacerbate the recession we are in… It will make restarting the economy that much more difficult.”

McConnell is an evil son of a bitch who needs to go and he has a strong opponent in Amy McGrath (D. KY). The question is how does she beat Moscow Mitch? Nathan Gonzalez lays two ways McGrath and Democratic groups can pull this. First off, follow Andy Beashear’s model (D. KY):

McGrath’s only viable path is to win with less than 50 percent, but still score more votes than McConnell. Democrats believe there are enough conservative voters who believe McConnell is not close enough to Trump that they will support a third-party candidate or skip the race entirely. It’s a tough sell, but there’s no reason to dismiss the scenario six months from the election.

Under the best possible conditions, against a historically unpopular incumbent in a non-federal race without Trump boosting turnout at the top of the ballot, Democrat Andy Beshear was elected Kentucky governor last year with 49.2 percent. McGrath doesn’t have the same bona fides as Beshear (he was a statewide elected official and his father served two terms as governor), but she’s still a credible contender, albeit with some baggage.

Second, prop up the Libertarian:

Instead piling attacks on McConnell, those groups are probably better off boosting third-party candidate Brad Barron. The libertarian farmer and businessman already shares a common mission and motto with Democrats: “It’s time to ‘Ditch Mitch.’ Vote for The Barron!” Democrats will likely promote Barron as a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment constitutional conservative and try to portray McConnell as a creature of Washington, considering he was first elected to the Senate at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term.

Barron filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 17 but hasn’t filed since. Which means he’s raised and spent less than $5,000 on his campaign.

Even without much of an initial public profile, two Democratic polls from January showed Barron receiving 5 percent and 7 percent of the vote respectively. The same surveys showed McGrath narrowly behind (43-40 percent in the Garin-Hart-Yang survey) or tied (at 41 percent, according to Change Research) with McConnell.

Being close in the polls isn’t new for McConnell. Six years ago, he was running even with or narrowly ahead of Grimes in the spring and summer before opening up a lead in the fall and ultimately winning by 16 points. But the national political environment will not be as favorable to Republicans this year as it was during President Barack Obama’s second midterm, and McConnell won’t outspend McGrath by $12 million.

Sometimes polls can overstate support for a third party candidate because respondents are given the name of an individual. But the surveys demonstrate how the dynamic of the race can change with a significant third-party presence. Libertarian nominees in Kentucky received 2 percent in the 2019 gubernatorial election and 3 percent in the 2014 Senate race, but without the financial backing Barron is likely to receive.

Of course, the scenario isn’t unprecedented. Democratic interests promoted Libertarian Dan Cox in the 2012 Montana Senate race with radio and TV commercials touting him as the “real conservative” in the race in order to siphon votes from GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg. Similar to Barron, Cox didn’t raise and spend enough to file with the FEC, yet he received 6.6 percent of the vote as Democratic incumbent Jon Tester was wining reelection 48.6 percent to 44.6 percent.

It’s the amount of money that could break the mold. Ditch Mitch, a Democratic group officially registered as the Ditch Fund, had $3.9 million at the end of March. That doesn’t include money it will raise over the next six months or that could be spent by Senate Majority PAC, the go-to Democratic outside group for Senate races, or an independent expenditure by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Let’s get rid of McConnell once and for all. Click here to donate and get involved with McGrath’s campaign.

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