Jackson, COVID and a moderate’s retirement point the partisan way of Congress

The rancor intensified in early 2016. McConnell, then the majority leader, prevented the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to replace the late Scalia. McConnell cited the presidential election nearly nine months away, infuriating Democrats.

Donald Trump was elected and eventually filled three vacancies in the face of near-unanimous Democratic opposition.

Democrats went against Brett Kavanaugh after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman decades earlier, which he denied. They voted solidly against Amy Coney Barrett after Trump and McConnell rushed for her nomination when a vacancy occurred weeks before Election Day 2020, a sprint Democrats called hypocritical.

Fighting COVID Spending, Transformed

On Monday, senators from both parties agreed to a $10 billion COVID-19 package that President Joe Biden wants for more therapies, vaccines and tests. With BA.2, the new omicron variant, washing across the country, it seemed on the verge of being approved by Congress.

Hours later, negotiators led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, appeared caught off guard when their compromise went off the rails. Republicans wanted to add an extension to an expiring crackdown on migrants crossing the Mexican border that Trump imposed in 2020, citing the pandemic’s public health threat.

Many Republicans were skeptical that more COVID-19 money was needed. But their demand for an immigration amendment has turned a battle over how much to spend on a disease that has killed 980,000 people in the United States into a battle over border security, tailor-made for the political campaigns of the upcoming GOP.

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