When Senator Josh Hawley voiced his support late last year for giving millions of Americans checks for $ 2,000, he said he got a call from Senator Bernie Sanders’ camp. What happened next was the formation of one of the strangest political couples on Capitol Hill, when the Trump Republican from Missouri and the Democratic Socialist from Vermont joined forces to make a very public effort for a shared priority.
That partnership could have continued last week, with another announcement from Hawley putting him in league with Sanders and other progressives – his support for requiring companies with revenues of $ 1 billion or more to pay their workers a minimum wage of $ 15 per hour.
But of course something pretty big has happened since Hawley and Sanders first joined forces. The Missouri Republican was a major backer and amplifier of former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories that he unfairly lost the 2020 election – theories that fueled the deadly assault on the US Capitol by a pro-mob. Trump on January 6. In the photograph, Hawley was photographed raising his fist in solidarity with those gathered outside the Capitol that morning. When the Senate met after the mob was cleared, Hawley was the only senator who spoke in favor of opposing the Electoral College certification.
So when Hawley unveiled his minimum wage plan on Friday, he followed no apparent public or private effort to collaborate with progressives. There was no sequel to the fight for the $ 2,000 checks. Hawley told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he had not received a call from Sanders or any Democratic colleague about the proposal or spoken to any of them about it. Meanwhile, Sanders declined to say whether he had even spoken to Hawley, saying only in response to questions that Democrats had gone from an effort to force companies to pay a $ 15 salary on their COVID bill. A source close to Sanders confirmed that the two men did not speak about the proposed amendment to require companies to pay a minimum wage of $ 15.
“I don `t believe [Democrats] I particularly want to work with anyone.“
– Josh hawley
When asked if Democrats wanted to work with him right now, Hawley said, “I don’t think they want to work with anyone in particular.”
But that does not seem to be the case.
Senator Jon Ossoff, the Georgia Democrat who won his Senate race on the same day that Hawley encouraged the mob that attacked him, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday: “I’m not going to rule out working with any colleague.” He said he would be willing to consider Hawley’s proposal, adding: “I am encouraged that there is interest among Republican senators in taking steps to increase salaries.”
Since January 6, Democrats have contemplated how they could get back to normal work with the more than 150 Republicans in Congress who voted in favor of the 2020 election results and who spread conspiracies that President Joe Biden somehow did not win fairly. Relations on Capitol Hill, typically friendly, have been strained, with outbursts and personal attacks at committee hearings. Some Democratic lawmakers now maintain lists of who they can and cannot work with, based on votes that took place after the January 6 attack.
But the Hawley case could be unique evidence of the new tense atmosphere on Capitol Hill. For some Democrats, no other high-profile Republican lawmaker is more associated with the events of January 6. Among many, particularly activists, Hawley is now firmly persona non grata, a despicable figure who has earned a career as an outcast. “Josh Hawley has a lot to answer for,” said Joe Sanberg, a California businessman and advocate for raising wages. “I don’t think it’s a relevant part of the conversation about just fighting for the minimum wage for 22 million people who make less than $ 15 an hour.”
But few, if any, occupy the space on the political spectrum that the first-year Republican has marked, space that has placed Hawley to find, at times, common ground with progressives.
In addition to the most conspicuous $ 2,000 check campaign and the minimum wage proposal, Hawley has introduced legislation to require some colleges to pay the debts of students who do not pay their loans and bills to control the prices of pharmaceuticals. He has been an outspoken critic of Wall Street and American business, albeit from a conservative perspective, but in ways that found him occasionally striking notes similar to some on the left.
For many progressives who might be willing to agree to some of Hawley’s proposals, caution and skepticism have prevailed over the ambitious senator’s populist proposals. Many have noted that their type of populism is animated by a nationalist and anti-immigration sentiment that they find xenophobic or even racist; others just don’t take their positions too seriously.
“I’ve always been hugely skeptical about it,” said Marshall Steinbaum, an economics professor at the University of Utah who focuses on issues of inequality, employment and antitrust. “This is not about making common cause with strange fellow politicians … I definitely think that having Hawley in some putative coalition discredits that coalition.”
But other Democrats have welcomed the emergence of Republicans who could potentially help them push through the pro-worker economic policies they have been campaigning for for years. Clearly, Sanders previously believed that working with Hawley could help provide direct relief to those hardest hit by the pandemic. “We are working on bipartisan legislation,” Sanders said in a Senate speech in December. “And Senator Hawley has done a very, very good job on this.”
Hawley, meanwhile, has been a vocal critic of the “radical left.” But when the Sanders partnership came up last year, he told reporters, “Hey, like I said, I’ll work with anyone.”
Senators’ efforts at stimulus checks led commentators to raise their eyebrows, in a “budding left-right populist alliance,” as the From the Washington Post Greg Sargent said so. Ultimately, the bill that passed on Dec. 26 fell far short of what the duo asked for, with direct checks for just $ 600, and an independent vote on the $ 2,000 checks they later pushed was blocked. by the Republican leadership of the Senate. But that full amount is almost certain to arrive eventually, with the Democratic-controlled Congress scheduled to send out direct payments of $ 1,400 as part of a new relief plan this month.
“He has terrible judgment. He’s always trying to move where he thinks the political winds are; when you move with political winds without any moral center, it takes you right into the hurricanes.“
– Joe Sanberg, Minimum Wage Advocate
The new round of relief was still an abstraction when the Capitol broke down on January 6, the same day Democrats sealed a majority in the Senate. Subsequently, seven Senate Democrats requested that the Senate Ethics Committee open an investigation to obtain a “full account” of Hawley’s role, and that of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), in the day’s events. Arguing that they had “lent legitimacy to the cause of the mob and made violence more likely in the future,” the senators said the body determined whether Republicans violated the rules and therefore deserved punishment, including expulsion. Sanders was not in the letter.
In response, Hawley accused the Democrats of trying to “cancel” it and submitted his own complaint to the ethics panel about his letter.
The Missouri senator played virtually no role in shaping the COVID relief plan that developed after Biden took office. Most Senate Democrats have avoided declaring that they will never work with him again, but no one is rushing to work with him.
Nonetheless, Hawley has tried to get a piece of the stimulus action underway, especially on the minimum wage, which has become a key focus of the current aid plan. In addition to proposing a requirement for “billion dollar” companies to pay a wage of $ 15 per hour, Hawley implemented what he called the “Blue Collar Bonus,” a tax credit intended to give employees of companies more small a way to reach the $ 15 threshold, at the government’s expense. Critics responded that the structure of his plan would give companies huge loopholes to avoid paying a fair wage.
It also explicitly excludes non-citizens and undocumented workers, something that is not a principle for Democrats and a signal to progressives like Sanberg that it is impossible to take a good thing in Hawley’s proposals without also assuming the bad. “He has a terrible judgment. He’s always trying to move where he thinks the political winds are; when you move with political winds without any moral center, it takes you directly to the hurricanes, “he said.
But Pete d’Alessandro, a former senior political adviser to Sanders in Iowa, said there is sometimes no other option. “Aren’t you going to work with each and every senator who thinks we still have to investigate the election?” he told The Daily Beast. “Because there is more to it than Hawley. If you accept what Congress is supposed to do, if you take out these buckets, there won’t be many people to work with, at some point. “