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President Joe Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan this week, sending critical direct aid to working families in Maine, to state and local governments and to industries hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is the defining issue of daily life right now. It touches the way we work, the way we shop, the way our children are educated, the way we visit the doctor and how we interact with our friends and family.
Lives have been lost, dreams disrupted, children left without enough to eat and families struggling to hang on in a reality that will have long-term physical and mental impact on our well-being.
And yet, not a single, solitary Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate bothered to support — or even offer a good-faith counterplan to — the American Rescue Plan, which will soon provide some measure of additional relief to millions of people.
It’s been a year since my office transitioned to remote work. Since then, I’ve only been in the office two or three times. I’ve been lucky enough to keep working — and earning my paycheck — from home. The same is true for my wife. We’re fortunate.
My son goes to school two days a week, my daughter is fully remote. The situation hasn’t been good for either of them, but they — like their teachers and administrators — are trying to make the best of a complicated balancing of priorities meant to keep people safe and to slow the spread of COVID-19 while also providing meaningful learning opportunities.
In the first half of last year, life expectancy in the United States declined by a year, a decline the New York Times described as the largest since World War II.
Vaccination rates are increasing and new COVID-19 cases have plateaued, at least for the time being, and real federal investment is on the way that will ensure millions of children have enough to eat, that people can pay their rent or mortgage and stay in their homes and hopefully have enough cash to survive until the economy fully reopens.
We have not yet come to terms with the full and lasting impact that the last year will have. There are people still suffering from long-term symptoms of COVID-19. Mental health overall has declined. The economic effects will linger, particularly on women and women of color, who have been squeezed out of the workforce.
While the majority of Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to overturn a lawful and secure election, while their local and state counterparts across the country are trying to restrict voting rights and are attacking transgender kids who want to play sports, and their media mouthpieces are aflame over the Muppets and Dr. Seuss, a razor-thin majority of Democrats in Washington is trying to solve the real problems in our country.
We no longer have a two-party system of governance. We have a Democratic Party that supports small-d democracy and recognizes the significant and ongoing challenges facing our country, and works to pass legislation to solve problems.
And we have a cult of personality, beholden to a defeated president, unable and unwilling to govern and organized only around grievance.
The American Rescue Plan is overwhelming popular with Americans, even among rank-and-file members of the Republican Party. It will pump billions of dollars into red states and blue states, alike. It will provide a lifeline to millions.
By the slimmest of margins, Democrats took action at a defining moment in history. Republicans were negligent. That negligence should be remembered.
David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.