Flipping the Senate could mean more help for Americans affected by the economic crisis—which McConnell has blocked for far too long.
Recently, my family and I were out Christmas shopping. I wanted to buy my dad a new toolbox for his truck, as I’d noticed that his current one didn’t lock anymore. As I navigated traffic, my husband pointed out something in the distance. It was a small plane zipping across the sky, pulling a banner that read: David Perdue For Senate.
The plane seemed to follow us down the busy roadway. When we parked at the shopping center and got out of the car, my daughter also noticed the flying sign. “Look mommy, look!” she pointed excitedly.
It was a new sight for my almost 5-year-old. To be honest, it was also a new sight for me.
Sort Fact From Fiction: Sign up for COURIER’s Newsletter
Currently, Republicans hold a 50-48 edge in the US Senate. If even one of Georgia’s incumbents (Sen. Perdue or Sen. Kelly Loeffler) win their seat in the state’s Senate runoff races on Jan. 5, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will retain control of the chamber, potentially blocking President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. But if Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, Biden will have the chance to push for, among other things, more coronavirus relief.
In other words, flipping the Senate could mean more help for Americans affected by the economic crisis—which McConnell has blocked for far too long.
On Sunday, President Trump signaled he would support adjusting direct payments for all Americans from $600 to $2,000 in the latest coronavirus relief package. Almost immediately, the House voted on an amendment to do just that. But, over in the Senate, McConnell has twice refused to take a vote on the issue. Instead, the majority leader introduced a new bill Tuesday tying increased stimulus payments to other matters that Democrats are all but certain to oppose, including an effort to investigate the 2020 election as well as a repeal of liability protections for large tech companies like Facebook and Twitter.
The same day—after stalling for nine months to bring Americans more relief after the last COVID relief package was signed into law—Georgia’s two GOP senators finally came out and said they support bigger checks. Their announcement suggests Perdue and Loeffler are feeling the pressure of the upcoming elections. Perdue has previously opposed direct payments on several occasions and instead advocated for measures like payroll tax cuts.
“I support that better than giving just a direct payment like we did in the first round of CARES. I really oppose that,” Perdue told PBS NewsHour. “But this thing of incenting people through the tax structure, I do support. As a business guy, I think that does work.”
Loeffler has also criticized legislative efforts to support Americans during the recession: In July, she told Fox News that she did not see “a big need to extend the federal unemployment insurance” in the midst of an economic crisis.
Democrats Ossoff and Warnock, meanwhile, have spent their entire campaigns advocating for more relief, with the former tweeting on Wednesday: “If David Perdue really wanted $2000 direct relief checks for the people, he’d be on the floor of the Senate demanding McConnell put up the House bill for a vote.”
As my family and I shopped that Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about that plane flying overhead to campaign for Perdue. He and Loeffler are among the wealthiest members of the Senate. They’ve both been accused of profiting off the pandemic, and they’re working feverishly to earn the votes of average, working-class Georgians.
Average, working-class Georgians like my mom and dad.
My parents have lived here for more than 40 years. They ended up in Augusta when my dad was stationed at Fort Gordon. My mom, who’s Korean, had no intention of going anywhere else after leaving her home country, so my parents bought a house a few miles from the army post. When the military sent my dad elsewhere on assignment—Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Fort Riley, Kansas, and other places—my mom stayed. And when I was born, I stayed with her.
I know it’s cliche to say this, but it’s true: My parents worked hard to provide for me, their only daughter, a good life. My mom started her own business, a small retail shop that sold everything from toys to hair weave, though it ultimately failed to gain a strong customer base. After my dad retired from the Army—I was 9 then—he found a job filling vending machines. He worked 12- to 14-hour days, and by the time he got home every night, he was too exhausted to do much else but watch TV.
My parents—who are now well into their 60s—never took vacations because they couldn’t afford to, and emergencies were usually paid with a credit card because they didn’t have much to set aside for such occasions. For most of their lives, they lived paycheck to paycheck, as nearly two-thirds of Americans have done so since the COVID crisis began.
Thankfully, my parents have not struggled financially during the pandemic—unlike the more than 296,000 Georgians who were unemployed in November. My mom still works as a cashier at a gas station—a job she’s had since she closed her store in the ’90s—though she only goes in three days a week now. My dad stopped working last year after an injury and is now living on his retirement. (I’m sure, however, had he not fractured his ankle, he would still be loading cases of soda into vending machines at the local power plant.)
But I know they, like so many others, could use another boost for their safety and well-being. Maybe then my mom will finally consider quitting her job, which—even with face masks and a plexiglass barrier between her and the customers—puts her at risk to contract the virus.
McConnell has proven over and over again that he has no interest in passing laws that will improve the lives of everyday Americans. On Wednesday, he announced the Democratic proposal to get $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans had “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.”
That’s why it’s so important that Georgians vote in the Jan. 5 runoffs. My mom and dad—and vulnerable Americans from all over just trying to survive life in a pandemic—deserve better.