McLin: Portman only pretending to care about getting Ohioans through coronavirus

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

This guest column by Rhine McLin, vice chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party, appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Wednesday, Dec. 16,

When Rob Portman says, “I think we need to act now” on coronavirus relief legislation, I wonder what’s different today than six months ago, when Rob opposed the House-passed Heroes Act.

Here’s what’s different -- Rob has to run for re-election.

Now that he’s worried about his political future, Portman is pretending to care about getting something done to help the thousands of Ohioans who have lost their small businesses, who have lost their jobs, who are going hungry, who are on the verge of eviction.

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: “Public should feel confident about getting vaccination," a guest column by U.S. Senator Rob Portman ran on this page Nov. 23. In it, Portman, R-Ohio, endorsed the safety of the coronavirus vaccines which were then in the trial phase. He also praised the CARES ACT, saying it provided $27 million in funds for COVID-19 development, and the Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed.

He was quoted in a Dec. 1 Columbus Dispatch article as saying of additional coronavirus relief, “I think we need to act now to avoid more pain for our economy, for our families."

Meanwhile, a little over 5,000 more Ohioans have passed away from COVID-19 since the House sent their comprehensive coronavirus package to the Senate. That’s 5,000 lives lost while Rob played politics.

I’ve had several friends and loved ones who have suffered from coronavirus. They have survived, but we have no idea what the long-term effects might be. I hate to think they could have been spared so much pain and suffering if Donald Trump had taken the coronavirus threat seriously instead of playing it down and Senate Republicans had acted, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach.

There can be no doubt that congressional Republicans like Portman and Mitch McConnell have made the coronavirus crisis and the resulting economic recession worse. Their stubborn refusal to work with their Democratic colleagues has led to months of inaction. Rob even attacked his fellow senators for daring to call for more funding for hospitals and local governments, which have struggled to avoid laying off firefighters, EMTs and police officers.

Of course, that didn’t stop Portman from later trying to claim credit for securing more funding for hospitals and coronavirus testing. It’s just more of the kind of D.C. double-talk that Ohioans hate about Washington.

So what’s actually been holding up coronavirus relief?

McConnell and the Senate GOP want to give immunity to corporations if they act negligently in spreading the coronavirus. They want to let companies like Tyson Foods, which allowed their supervisors to hide COVID-19 cases even as they took bets on how many of their workers would become infected, off the hook for their callous and dangerous actions. McConnell and Portman have been holding an unemployment income extension, small business relief, food aid, emergency rent assistance and funding for expanded coronavirus testing hostage to prevent workers from holding negligent corporations accountable.

The latest proposal from McConnell would give up corporations’ get-out-of-lawsuits-free card in exchange for no additional funding for states and local governments. Mitch is threatening to bankrupt our communities because he wants to promise bad actors they won’t be held liable for infecting their workers or customers.

Rob and Mitch have always prioritized their donors: millionaires, billionaires and big corporations. Working Americans get the short end of the stick.

So Rob can spare me the bipartisan song and dance that he trots out every six years. Ohio voters are tired of Portman’s act. He should try some new material.

Rhine McLin is the vice chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party. She is a former Dayton mayor and member Ohio House of Representatives.

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