Right now, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has access to over $400 million in federal COVID assistance funds that Governor Andy Beshear would like to use to give bonus pay to certain essential workers, like nurses and other frontline healthcare workers, among others.
This shouldn’t be something any of us would disagree with. I think we can all – regardless of political affiliation – agree that these individuals have taken the most risks during the pandemic. They’ve worked the most hours. They’ve dealt with the hardest parts of life during a pandemic. They’ve had to tell families their loved ones have passed. And they’ve been the hands our parents and grandparents held at the end, when their own families could not be allowed inside.
No one can deny this.
No one should begrudge them their share of this money the federal government has made available to them.
No one with an ounce of political savvy would contest this.
That is what make the most recent move by Republican lawmakers – to slow efforts by Beshear to distribute that money – one of the more heinous examples of partisan politics gone wrong.
Even when both sides agree, partisan bickering has become so fierce that our elected officials just can’t help but be contrary when any suggestion comes from the opposite side of the aisle.
A Republican leader could make a motion to order a pizza with his opponent’s favorite toppings, and the Democrat would find a way to stall it until dinner the next evening, even if he hadn’t eaten all day. Or vice versa. The parties in the example don’t matter so much. Both are guilty of these sorts of tactics.
But in the case of the recent funds for essential workers, it’s the Republicans holding up the process for no reason other than partisan pig-headedness.
It isn’t that they oppose Beshear’s suggestion that nurses be among the first to be granted essential worker status for the purpose of these funds – or probably any other Democratic suggestions for that matter. The list floated by the Democrats so far includes health care workers, law enforcement, firefighters, educators, grocery workers, and those in manufacturing.
It’s that they object to the formation of another bipartisan working group. Beshear invited the Republican leaders to choose members of their party to come to help reach consensus on who should be included, and how funds should be divided. Instead of compromising to streamline the process, though, the Republicans want Beshear to “advance any bonus pay proposals during the remaining interim committee schedule, or during the 2022 Regular Session,” as they wrote in their reply to the governor.
The objection isn’t to the idea, per se, it’s to the procedure. While it could be seen as admirable to stand of principle, and insist on procedure, when the safeguards of procedure ensure freedoms aren’t infringed or justice subverted, that is not the case here.
This is simple partisan obstruction. Obstruction that could push the payments out until sometime next year. There’s simply no need for that.
We know the Republicans don’t want to give Beshear a win. We understand that. But they risk cutting off their noses to spite their face with this move.
Professional nursing organizations are already issuing statements in support of the move to expedite payments. Others won’t be far behind. And working class voters are more likely to remember – and blame – the Republicans for slowing these payments than they are Beshear.
This stunt has the potential to backfire terribly for the Republicans, and we urge them to reconsider. For their own sake, as well as that of the essential workers who could use the hazard pay.