With Democrats in control of Congress and Joe Biden as president, Americans can expect a large, long-term package of aid to help get through the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Sen. Ron. Wyden said.
In an interview Friday, the Oregon Democrat said he was supporting efforts to get President Donald Trump to resign or be removed from office after the riot at the U.S. Capitol sparked by Trump’s speech to protesters. The senator also called for the resignations of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, for their roles in encouraging protesters and objecting to the Electoral College vote counts.
“Any senator exhorting such an assault violates their sworn oath and is unworthy of holding federal office,” Wyden said. “There must be consequences for senators who would foment a violent mob for personal gain.”
But the senator said the focus also has to be sharp on what to do after Trump is gone.
“We’re going to get $2,000 checks out to Americans as soon as we can,” Wyden said. “We’re going to get those $600 federal unemployment benefits back. We’ve got folks who are hurting desperately — they’re not able to pay their rent, buy their groceries, get medicine for their kids.
Wyden said the political change in Washington, D.C., will reveal the reality the senator believes Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have tried to hide: The COVID-19 crisis is deep, hard and won’t be under control for months, even a year.
“These safety net issues are so essential, they should not depend on whim of one political person,” Wyden said of McConnell. “There was a strategy before not to admit how bad things are.”
Congress is also ready to help Biden, a Democrat, lift the fog of conflicting policies and statements about a pandemic that has killed more than 370,000 Americans. Democrats believe they will get significant Republican support for a major push to get vaccines into the arms of Americans as swiftly as possible.
“Deployment without delays,” Wyden said.
Because Trump at first dismissed, then downplayed, the exploding spread of the virus, Wyden said the president could never get beyond what the crisis meant to him personally. Instead of being chastened by his own brush with COVID, Trump told Americans not to let it control their lives, and he personally rarely wore a mask.
Even when the Trump-initiated Operation Warp Speed helped scientists create two vaccines in less than a year, with more to come, Trump was still holding parties and large rallies with supporters who did not wear masks, spreading the infection.
“He didn’t want to do the hard work needed,” Wyden said.
Biden has promised a science-based policy led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Under Trump, Fauci found his advice often ignored and endured the president’s promotion of quack cures and personal opposition to the national effort to have Americans wear masks in public.
One of the hardest changes will be to level with Americans that COVID-19 will kill more people and cripple more businesses for much of 2021.
“It is hard to turn away from the reality,” Wyden said. “The fact is we have a coronavirus spike that is greater than spring. We’re starting to get projections of other mutations of the virus.”
Wyden said that’s why aid programs need to be untethered to artificial end dates created by guesses on how bad the situation will be months or a year down the road.
On a practical level, that means federal aid to people, businesses, cities and states will be needed for as long as it takes. He said he would like to see as many programs as possible be self-renewing until metrics showing a strong, sustained recovery is in place before they would be shut down or curtailed.
“You don’t want people constantly worried about what is next,” the senator said.