Home / General / Blaming “Congress” for failing to pass a COVID relief bill is carrying Mitch McConnell’s water

Blaming “Congress” for failing to pass a COVID relief bill is carrying Mitch McConnell’s water

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This kind of framing makes you part of the problem:

The lede is no better:

In a shocking move even for Congress, the Senate has adjourned for the week while supplemental unemployment insurance for millions of Americans simply expires.

These benefits — a key lifeline for many workers during the Covid-19 pandemic — are now set to lapse on Friday, with no clear indication of when they’ll be renewed.

Another 3 paragraphs down and we finally get something closer to the truth:

Much of the recent delay, however, has actually been driven by disagreement among Republicans. Not only are Senate Republicans split over the need for more stimulus and concerns over additions to the national debt, the White House, too, has its own set of priorities.

But setting up the story this way is grossly misleading readers in the name of false “objectivity.” Any remotely accurate story would start with this: House Democrats passed a bill that would have extended the UI benefit while also providing a new stimulus check, substantial state and local aid, and an eviction moratorium (inter alia) more than 2 months ago. You may think this doesn’t go far enough, you may think it goes too far, but it is simply a fact that House Dems passed a bill addressing this in May. What Senate Republicans did with that until the last few days is…nothing. No serious attempt to negotiate, no viable counterproposals, nothing. They bet everything on the economy magically turning around, and when this inevitably failed there was no plan B. And numerous Republican senators are saying that they oppose any further relief as a matter of principle.

An accurate report of what’s happening is that a lot of people have just lost a lifeline because Senate Republicans refused to act or even do more than pro forma negotiation. That’s what happened. You don’t have to express your judgment about which side is right, but it’s a serious disservice to your readers to generically blame “Congress.” If a majority of your readers will infer from a straightforward description of what’s going on that Republicans are nihilistic monsters who refused to help suffering people even when it’s in their political self-interest to do so, that’s not your problem.

One of the biggest problems with high-veto-point systems is that they dilute accountability. But that doesn’t mean people whose job is informing the public should make things worse.

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