The coronavirus pandemic has brought together political adversaries in Congress to find solutions for sick people and an equally sick national economy.
In record time, the U.S. House and Senate passed and President Donald Trump signed a $100 billion bill to expand sick leave, Medicaid and unemployment benefits and offer free testing for the COVID-19 virus.
Among the bill’s provisions are two weeks paid sick time for workers quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19. That is capped at $511 a day and contains several exemptions. Workers with children at home due to school closures can receive up to two-thirds of their pay, capped at $200 a day.
Subsequent economic stimulus legislation is expected to help the airline industry and small businesses. That could add another $1 trillion to the coronavirus response.
Oklahoma’s Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford were among eight senators voting against the first measure. Tulsa First District Congressman Kevin Hern joined 40 representatives in opposition.
Inhofe said he couldn’t support the legislation because it would require small businesses to “front” employee pay and benefits. Although well intended, he said that could tip many small businesses into failure or force layoffs.
Lankford said he was also concerned about the bill’s impact on small businesses. He emphasized the need to fix problems with the first bill in subsequent legislation.
Hern said he wanted to have more time for debate, calling the bill “rushed.”
On that point, we disagree. Urgency and speed are necessary in this national emergency. We believe lawmakers can work at a fast pace and still fully consider issues.
Inhofe, Lankford and Hern are clearly out of step with their colleagues and the president, but it’s hard to judge how they stand with their constituents. We’ve heard from people on both sides who feel very strongly. Inhofe and Hern are likely to face voters in November, which will be the ultimate test.
In the end, we agree with Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on this one. He said the bill has “real shortcomings” but “we should (not) let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”