News & Politics

Angry McConnell Accuses Democrat Leaders of 'Fiddling' and 'Obstructing' Bail-Out Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell just accused the Democrat leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of … fiddling.

You mean fiddling while Rome burns?

“So we’re fiddling here. Fiddling with our emotions of the American people. Fiddling with the markets. Fiddling with our health care. The American people expect us to act tomorrow.”

McConnell tends to use old-timey phrases in his speeches, but something tells me he intentionally used that word to evoke the idea of Nero contemplating his navel and plucking along on his fiddle while the walls crashed around him in a cataclysm of fire.

It sure seems like that’s how he meant it:

“And I want everyone to fully understand if we’re not able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”

Apocryphal or not, here’s the backstory on what it means when someone fiddles while Rome burns according to History.com:

In July of 64 A.D., a great fire ravaged Rome for six days, destroying 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless. According to a well-known expression, Rome’s emperor at the time, the decadent and unpopular Nero, “fiddled while Rome burned.” The expression has a double meaning: Not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.

A red-faced McConnell accused the Democrats of obstructing and being “ineffectual leaders in times of crisis” while the CARES Act,  a $1.6 trillion plan which includes cash payments to individuals and money to employers to save their jobs, is allowed to languish. The bill also temporarily allows people to suspend their payments on student loans and reduces liability for health care professionals.

This obstruction gets the Democrats nothing

“Look, I can understand obstruction when you’re trying to achieve something. This obstruction achieves nothing, nothing whatsoever, other than prevent us from getting into a position where there are literally 30 more hours that they could use to continue to dicker. So at a time when the country is crying out for bipartisanship and cooperation – and we saw that over the last 48 hours in the Senate when regular members, not Senators in the leadership office, not in the Speaker’s Office, for goodness sake, she’s the Speaker of the House not the Speaker of the Senate, we don’t have one. We were doing just fine until that intervention.”

Though Pelosi is in the House, she reportedly insisted Schumer and the rest of the Senate Democrats include a carve-out to abortion organization Planned Parenthood for Small Business Administration bailouts. She also demanded aid to unions, same-day voter registration and early voting in every state, as well as provisions of the Green New Deal, including a cap-and-trade system for the airline industry in the pandemic bill.

Democrats held up the bill twice to put more goodies in.

McConnell says, “we had a high level of bipartisanship in five different working groups and then all of a sudden the Democratic leader and the speaker of the house shows up and we’re back to square one.”