We are at a crossroads as a commonwealth and a nation as we battle the most serious and deadly surge of coronavirus cases to date. Despite a White House that has focused all its attention on making baseless claims to undermine election results, the CDC continues to urge Americans to avoid gathering this holiday season to slow the spread and save lives. It’s a tall order and significant sacrifice for all of us as we grapple with the thought of not seeing friends and family members. It truly didn’t have to be this way if our leaders had worked together from the start.
We know the pandemic has been grossly mismanaged at the federal level with disastrous effects. Here at home, Republicans who have held the majority in our state legislature for the last decade have spent 10 months trying every trick in their book to undermine our governor, our health professionals and a preponderance of the medical and scientific evidence that has guided Pennsylvania’s pandemic response.
Most recently, many have joined President Trump in his fruitless quest to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters — landing themselves, once again, on the wrong side of history. Even in Georgia, where President-elect Biden won by a much slimmer margin than in Pennsylvania, GOP legislators resisted the urge to pander to an inflamed mob and, instead, discharged their constitutional duty responsibly and faithfully. They didn’t take part in the Rudy Giuliani traveling COVID super-spreader circus, and they didn’t attempt to convince their congressional delegation to ignore millions of their state’s voters in an attempt to overturn the election. Alternatively, Pennsylvania Republicans’ reaction to the election and the pandemic have been in lockstep with Trump’s: ignore reality, sow division and discord, and abandon the responsibilities voters entrusted them with.
Since March, we’ve seen disturbing behavior from Republicans in their districts and in Harrisburg, where they’ve discouraged mask-wearing and intimidated local officials, pressuring them to defy state orders. In Lebanon County, emails revealed by PA Spotlight showed state Rep. Russ Diamond, state Rep. Frank Ryan and state Sen. Dave Arnold encouraging businesses and local officials to “go rogue” against the governor’s stay-at-home order. In Cumberland County, commissioners pushed back against their local Republican lawmakers’ calls to prematurely enter the Green Phase of reopening. There have been calls for the secretary of health to resign and efforts to impeach the governor — all at the behest of Republicans in Harrisburg who seem to believe they know better than the medical and public health experts.
As virus numbers climbed exponentially this fall, the legislature had the opportunity to provide $1.3 billion in federal CARES Act money directly to the frontline workers, farmers, childcare providers, veterans, families, local restaurants and other businesses most impacted. Instead, Republican leaders refused to consider any of these proposals, and took the money to help fill budget holes largely of their own creation.
And, when the governor responded to this latest surge and acted to slow the spread and save lives, Republican’s only input was, “He’s trying to cancel Christmas.” Seriously? Let’s be clear: COVID-19 is a global health crisis that requires a response from leaders across the globe. The governor’s efforts are not a targeted political attack on certain people in this commonwealth: They are an attempt to save lives.
These are serious times, and we face serious challenges. The election is over, and the pandemic is surging. For the sake of all Americans and all Pennsylvanians, serious leaders need to respond to these challenges honestly and responsibly. As we prepare for the new legislative session, PA House Democrats will once again be proposing fiscal and legislative policies to keep people safe while providing the help they need to support their families, communities, and businesses until this pandemic is over. The people of this commonwealth need our Republican colleagues to find the courage and focus to join us in this effort.
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