Back in May the Democratic-led House anticipated that the toll from COVID-19
and its economic consequences would continue to be devastating. The House passed
relief and recovery legislation, largely along party lines. The $3 trillion bill would help
state, local and tribal governments facing huge holes in their budgets; fund more
COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; hazard pay for first responders and essential
workers; extension of unemployment benefits; aid to education and help with housing
problems. Wisconsin Democratic Representatives Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark
Pocan voted yes. However, Wisconsin GOP Representatives Mike Gallagher, Glenn
Grothman, Jim Sensenbrenner and Bryan Steil shamefully voted no (Tom Tiffany was
not yet sworn in).
The legislation would help Wisconsin avoid draconian budget and service cuts.
The Wisconsin Budget Project said the bill would: “Allocate $8.5 billion to the state and
$7.5 billion to local governments … provide an additional $1.9 billion in Medicaid dollars
… (and) $1.4 billion for education … .” But the irresponsible GOP-led Senate refused to
consider the House bill. In the middle of a pandemic Republicans played the fiddle
while everything burned down. Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, unlike
Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, had excuses when urgent action was needed.
Finally, last week Senate Republicans bestirred themselves, but failed to pass anything.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “Hopefully, we can come together behind
some package we can agree on in the next few weeks.”
But the need is right now! For example, the emergency $600 per week in extra
unemployment benefits expired last Saturday in Wisconsin. Moreover, thousands of
unemployed Wisconsinites face eviction. And, Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony
Evers “seeks another $250M in state budget cuts to offset pandemic revenue losses”
(MJS). But University of Wisconsin System interim President Tommy Thompson
pleaded no more cuts to the UW System. (Hint for Thompson – ask Wisconsin GOP
legislators to approve federally funded Medicaid expansion. State savings from it could
help the UW System). The state faces higher unemployment, on top of an epic farm
crisis with over 2,000 dairy farms out of business! What’s wrong with Wisconsin
Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. More than 4 million cases
nationally, approaching 50,000 in Wisconsin. U.S. deaths are about 150,000 with
around 900 in Wisconsin. However, Trump insists COVID-19 will “disappear”. He said:
“A lot of the country is – has no problem whatsoever – most of the country actually.” On
par with his home remedy of ingesting disinfectant. However, even Trump knows he is
in political trouble. Too many getting sick or dying and a faltering economy. Moreover,
polling shows Biden leading nationally, including Florida.
So Trump canceled his coronation convention in Florida. Too many ambulance
sirens. And, Trump has brought back his daily COVID-19 (reelection) briefing, sans Dr.
Anthony Fauci. Moreover, to distract from the COVID-19 health and economic carnage,
Trump sent “federal agents in military-style camouflage to Portland, Oregon”
(Washington Post). He is also threatening Milwaukee. None of that can obscure that
Trump and state congressional Republicans have failed Wisconsin miserably.
Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C.,
for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.