The House is working on a plan to return next week, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has some thoughts, clearly reflecting the fact that he’s got a conference of older white men who don’t have to worry about leaving families with young children and no child care in a lurch. The Republicans say that the Congress should be considered essential workers and should be in D.C. They are essential, but they’re hardly providing frontline services in health care or food distribution and could certainly do their jobs at a distance. That would require the cooperation of those Republicans, however, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific, medical realities of a pandemic.
McCarthy says offices could be reconfigured to allow more space for staff. McCarthy apparently hasn’t been in any staff area in any congressional office in a long time, because those offices allow about 4 square feet of cubicle space per staffer, with as many as eight people crammed into the staff rooms. The possibility of “modifiying existing practices and structures,” is therefore limited to having maybe a quarter of staff on hand. In addition to reworking individual offices—not really possible—McCarthy recommends having plexiglass barriers at the security entrances to all the congressional buildings, which makes sense, and having longer votes so fewer people are on the floor at one. We saw how that worked a couple of weeks ago, when a bunch of Republican members hung out on the floor, refusing to wear masks or keep 6 feet away from colleagues. Democrats have good reason to fear for their health.
He also recommends a “phased return with committees,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense along with his plan for everyone to be back. He suggests committees coming back in waves to consider critical legislation. That could mean he doesn’t think everyone needs to be there at the same time, but suggests people having to continually travel back and forth from home to the Capitol. Again, that works for people who primarily live in D.C., but for all the members who have young families back in their home districts, it’s just not feasible or safe. They do allow that some committee hearings could be structured to have some members calling him from home, with staff in the Capitol. Because of course they’re willing to sacrifice the people who work for them.
They also recommend that Congress implement “self-reported medical diagnostic assessments, at-home temperature monitoring, touchless thermal temperature checks at office entry points.” Again, that would require Republican members who would actually self report and monitor their health at home. Remember back in March when Sen. Rand Paul suspected he had the virus, had been tested for it, but still came to the Senate and hung around all his colleagues before he got test results back? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like such a great plan for keeping everyone safe. Because Republicans don’t give a damn about their colleagues.
Case in point, “pro-life” Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who smugly tweeted last week “If some of my colleagues in the Senate are really concerned that they won’t survive the process of doing what they were hired to do, then perhaps they should consider another line of work.” That’s the Republican “culture of life” in a nutshell—it matters only to the point of leaving the womb. After that human lives are fair game.