The Grim Reaper, Moscow Mitch, Massacre Mitch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has earned and self-appointed many nicknames going into what will be his seventh term in the U.S. Senate. Of the ones listed, the last two were given to him by his rivals and opponents. The first, however, McConnell gave himself last year, promising to be the executioner of any progressive policies Democrats dared to introduce while he serves as Senate majority leader. Credit where credit is due, he has more than earned that title, although I'm not sure that should be a point of pride for any responsible elected official.
“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell told a group of community leaders in Owensboro, Kentucky. "None of that stuff is going to pass," he bragged, referring to many policies that would benefit his own constituents. To be specific, he confirmed to Fox News anchor Bret Baier earlier this year that he was sitting on 395 pieces of legislation.
What are some of those bills? Firstly, common sense gun reform. Last summer, two mass shootings in two days killed 32 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, less than a week after three were killed in a shooting in Gilroy, California. It was a horrific period, even by American standards. All three shooters purchased their guns legally, and had records of alarming behavior that should have disqualified them from buying firearms. Social media and message board posts of violent racism as well as lists of people to rape and kill could have been discovered if the perpetrators underwent strict background checks, as two bills passed by the House of Representatives earlier in 2019 would have mandated. While the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and the Enhanced Background Checks Act collect dust on Massacre Mitch's desk, with McConnell not even dignifying the bills by bringing them to the Senate floor for a vote, Americans die every day due to avoidable and senseless gun violence.
An iconic and popular bipartisan bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been indefinitely put on hold by McConnell. Introduced by President-elect of the United States Joe Biden as a senator, the multi-pronged approach to addressing domestic violence became law in 1994. It has been hailed by the ACLU as “one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” Providing for shelters for victims, support to law enforcement and preventative measures, the bill was reauthorized in 2013, when Joe Biden was vice president. After expiring on February 15, 2019, the reauthorization passed the House on April 4 with the support of every House Democrat and 33 House Republicans. Since then, despite pressure from activists, politicians, law enforcement and more, Mitch McConnell has refused to take action. In December of 2019, Houston Police Chief Art Acevado called out McConnell for refusing to allow a vote on the bill after a Houston police officer was killed in the line of duty by an abusive boyfriend with a firearm, a death that could have been prevented by the VAWA, which would have closed the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows abusing domestic partners to legally purchase firearms.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly at the moment, the HEROES Act lays in McConnell's office as America is in the throes of one of the worst public health emergencies and economic crises in American history. Passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 of this year, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would provide desperately needed relief to the millions of Americans suffering mentally, physically and economically from the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is a comprehensive measure to alleviate some of the burdens faced by families, businesses, communities and healthcare providers. Amongst many other things, the bill would provide a $1,200 check for every American, enhanced unemployment benefits for the millions who have lost or are struggling to find a job, increased funding for food stamps, reimbursements to health care providers for lost revenue, additional funding for effective testing and tracing measures, assistance for businesses to keep employees on their payrolls, expanded funding for housing and utility assistance and extended eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. These are all measures that, directly or indirectly, can be matters of life and death, but the Grim Reaper has made it clear that he has no intention of helping. He called the bill “unserious,” but just like the problems facing Americans, the HEROES Act is as serious as a heart attack, which would have been a reason to deny health care coverage if McConnell could've forced through the GOP's pathetic Obamacare replacement.
Why bring attention to these bills? Why point out Mitch McConnell's inaction on crucial legislation? Because we have the power to right his wrongs. We can take the gavel out of McConnell's hands, by electing Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in January. If Democrats can win both of those seats, the Senate would be evenly split, and all tie-breaking votes would be cast by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
We know that this has been a long and grueling campaign. We feel the fatigue that we thought would end in November, but common sense gun reform, the Violence Against Women Act, and serious coronavirus relief can be passed with a new Democratic majority in the Senate to partner the existing majority in the House, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House. Now, more than ever, the American people need serious and honorable leadership that places their needs above partisan gridlock, corporate sycophancy and special interest kowtowing. It is time we deliver for America.