News & Politics

GOP Senator Blocks Unanimous Consent Passage of Paid Sick Leave Bill

Empty shelves for disinfectant wipes wait for restocking, as concerns grow around COVID-19, Tuesday March 3, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A lone Republican, Senator Lamar Alexander, put the brakes on an effort by Senate Democrats to ram a paid sick leave bill through the Senate. Alexander objected to Senator Patty Murray’s unanimous consent request to pass the bill, forcing Democrats to take it to committee.

No one knows how much a paid sick leave bill would cost employers and taxpayers. No one knows how it would work. No one knows who it would cover. These things are important, even in a crisis. And passing such a huge bill while blindfolded is not Alexander’s idea of good governance.

The Hill:

“The idea of paid sick leave is a good idea. But if Washington, D.C., thinks it’s a good idea, Washington, D.C., should pay for it,” Alexander, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said from the Senate floor.
“It’s not a cure for the coronavirus to put a big new expensive federal mandate on employers who are struggling in the middle of this matter,” Alexander said.
The GOP chairman said while he could not support the bill, he was willing to work with Murray — the top Democrat on the HELP Committee — to combat the coronavirus.
There are good public health reasons to keep workers home if they’re sick with the coronavirus, but if an employer doesn’t have a paid sick leave benefit these days for employees, they probably can’t afford it in the first place. There are so many small businesses that operate on the tiniest of margins, where a couple of workers taking two weeks of sick leave could bring down the entire business.

Senator Murray’s state of Washington has been very hard hit by the virus, and she’s just looking out for her constituents.

“Our primary goal right now, for people in my home state and across the country, needs to be slowing the spread of the virus in areas where there are outbreaks, so areas where it hasn’t hit so hard yet have time to prepare,” Murray said Wednesday.

“One of the best ways we can do this is by allowing workers who feel sick—or who need to stay home with a child whose school is closed — to do so without losing a paycheck or a job,” she added.

This is a difficult issue that demands scrutiny. Just because we’re in a crisis doesn’t mean Congress should go off half-cocked and be panicked into passing the entire Democratic Party’s social agenda. Regular order is called for and if we’re told that if something isn’t done it will be too late, it probably already is.