COLUMN: Political toilet paper hoarding

One thing we all agree on is that these are extraordinary times. Times like these also can be bring out the best and worst in people.

We have seen countless examples of people going out of their way to help others, but we also have seen the other side and are reminded, too, of how selfishly people can react. There is no better example of that than the bizarre toilet paper hoarding that took place almost immediately following concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

With businesses being forced to trim their hours or close completely, the economy is facing tremendous peril. In response, a significant stimulus was proposed in Washington, D.C., with the hope that if anything would be met with bipartisan support and quick approval, it would be such an act.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.

Several days later, we still don’t have a bill that has been approved by both the U.S. Senate and House. As this is being written, the Senate and the White House have come together on a bill in the Senate. Now, we wait for the House, which adjourned on Wednesday. How much time did the House spend in session on Wednesday? A grand total of 115 seconds.

The entire process was nearly derailed, and certainly needlessly delayed, when House Democrats tried to pack the original bill with non-virus related provisions. They became the equivalent of political toilet paper hoarders.

The most recent version in the Senate includes significant relief for the American worker and beleaguered business. Included are one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. It offers a $367 billion program that will help small businesses to continue to meet payroll.

The bill also includes much-needed funding to help aid the health care industry. The total package comes to a whopping $2 trillion that will be put to immediate use to hopefully get the U.S. through the pandemic.

Much of this is not significantly altered from the bill that was first sent to the House, which immediately went into political mode instead of constituent-serving mode. In other words, sadly, it was business as usual as too many viewed it as the perfect opportunity to stuff it full of completely unrelated measures. They were no doubt hoping to get these through because it was tied to a bill to which nobody could otherwise object.

The good news is their efforts were quickly exposed and met with significant revulsion.

Some of the measures the House attempted to include in a massive 1,100-page bill included:

• Required same-day voter registration.

• Expand the “emergency lifeline broadband benefit” for “qualifying low income” consumers. This was commonly known as the “Obamaphone” program.

• Any airline that accepted assistance would be required to offset carbon emissions and reduce overall emissions 50 percent by 2050.

• Provided $1.2 billion in grants for the production of “sustainable aviation fuels” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• Mandated a $15 minimum wage for companies accepting assistance.

• $35 million for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

• $300 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

• $300 million for the National Endowment of the Humanities

• Eliminated a minimum of $10,000 of federal and private student loan debt per borrower.

No matter what one may think of these measures, we all should acknowledge it was completely inappropriate to try to sneak these through on the back of a desperately needed emergency relief bill.

It’s no surprise it was tried, though, since this has been the modus operandi for too long. And, to be sure, neither party is immune to such criticism as both have engaged in these kind of legislative shenanigans for years. If this were the GOP attempting something similar, it would be just as distasteful.

However, this may have been the most egregiously timed example of covert legislative maneuvers we have seen in quite some time, and that covers a lot of territory.

As others have noted, at a time when some Americans are dying, this was not a time to engage in surreptitious leveraging to secure pet legislation.

It’s akin to pulling up a truck to the backdoor of the Capitol in the middle of the night and loading it up with goods. At least toilet paper hoarders didn’t hide their intentions.

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Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the Enid News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Dave? Send an email to daver@enidnews.com.

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