NORWALK, Conn. —Jim Himes on Monday let loose partisan commentary that he’s been holding back on, given the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I haven’t been advertising this, but you should be so proud of our party right now,” said Himes, U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s Fourth District, to Norwalk Democrats, explaining that Democrats, and led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “have set aside all of our concerns, to be euphemistic, with this President, to work with Republicans, to work with the White House for which we have scant respect, to deliver an unprecedented response to a pandemic like we have never seen before.”
He went on to say, “I’m feeling pretty good about the unity that I’m seeing in our party… And that’s beyond essential, because not only do we need to win the presidency, we need to win the United States Senate.”
Video of Himes at end of story
Himes is up for reelection this fall for a seventh two-year term. Norwalk Republicans heard last week from two of three potential opponents to Himes.
“Jim Himes has to go because if the Trump President’s reelected what we’re going to be fighting is impeachment. Jim Himes is going to be one of the impeachment team. That’s the last thing we want,” said Michael Goldstein, a Greenwich man seeking the Republican endorsement for the seat. He agreed with others that Himes will be in line to become a Senator in two years when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) retires. “…Let’s nip it in the bud. We’re facing some real challenges here, we’re facing the advent of social socialist views of the radical wing of the Democratic Party.”
“We have every communist – excuse me, I mean Democrat – offering everything under the sun, and threatening private property ownership,” said Jonathan Riddle, a Norwalker seeking the seat.
Himes on Monday said you would think that working to bail out hard hit Americans would be a low bar for public officials, but he’s now done it twice and 10 years ago Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the number one priority was to prevent President Barack Obama from being reelected.
“Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats could have taken a similar tack with President Trump. And yet we did in a record matter of time, four weeks ago, we passed the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package,” Himes said.
Phase II, a half trillion dollar replenishment of the CARES Act was passed last week, but “It took five months 10 years ago, five months to come up with a $787 billion stimulus program, the American Recovery Reinvestment Act,” Himes said. “…Contrast that to what just happened. Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats worked assiduously with the Republicans to get this rescue package done.”
“I’m not saying that what we did was perfect. We’re learning as we go,” Himes said. “But we have been working as hard as we can to try to get the economic resources out there to help individuals that help small businesses to help nonprofits to expand the unemployment insurance system.”
Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics with the stimulus package last week because Democrats worked to “make sure that some of this rescue money goes to the smallest of the small businesses,” hospitals and community health centers, Himes said.
But Democrats need to learn from this pandemic, and “be much better prepared,” and “not do things like under invest in the Connecticut Department of Labor,” which has been struggling with 40-year-old software as it works to deliver unemployment checks, Himes said.
The crisis has highlighted the inequities in the American system, the Congressman said.
“I’m talking about stuff that is that is about life or death right now,” Himes said. “The fact of the matter is when you look at the statistics, if you are African American or Latino or an immigrant, you are much more likely to die of Coronavirus than if you are not. Some of our people have good access to health care others do not. Students from affluent environments are working on expensive laptops doing distance learning. Kids at Norwalk Community College and some of our less advantaged kids don’t have that as an option.”
In this, his second bailout, “I am beyond irritated by the fact that it is a one-way street for many of our private corporations,” Himes said. “They get lots of tax cuts when Republicans are in charge as we saw two years ago, their tax rates go from 35 percent to 21 percent. And when the chips are down, and they need help, taxpayer dollars go to go to the airlines, go to the large corporations, go to the small businesses. That is not how we need to be spending our money in the future. The way we need to be spending our money in the future is addressing the inequities that I highlighted there.”
“Never, ever has had been so clear, as if it hasn’t been clear every single day since January of 2017, how important this November is. President Trump is beyond unfit to be President of the United States. He’s unfit to be doing anything in any position of responsibility,” Himes charged.
America wouldn’t tolerate the Mayor of a two-horse town suggesting that people be injected with disinfectant “and yet the President of the United States does that kind of thing on a daily basis,” Himes said.
As assets in his bid for reelection, Trump had an economy “he inherited from a two term Democratic President and a roaring stock market,” Himes said. “…And he had the usual bigotry.”
“My theory is that you can make Americans sort of cotton on to that (bigotry) for some limited period of time,” Himes said. “But in the face of a coronavirus crisis, which is all about our unity, and not just our unity as Americans, but our willingness to work with other countries abroad … I have enough faith in the American people to think that’s just not going to sell the way it might have sold in 2016.”
Answering questions, Himes said, “The other thing we’re learning that almost brings a tear to my eye, quite frankly, is that after three years of vilification of immigrants and of the undocumented, in particular of our President calling people who come to this country illegally ‘drug dealers and criminals,’ we’re discovering that they’re actually essential to providing us with food.”
If Democrats start with the moral proposition that “essential” workers should be treated “with the kind of respect that any human being deserves,” then immigration answers will fall into place, Himes said.
“Some of them are tough, right? We do need secure borders, we do need an orderly system of immigration,” Himes said. “If we start with that basic level of humanity, the output will be much more reasonable than if we start from where this President would have to start.”
Typo corrected at 1:18 p.m. Further copy edit at 2 p.m.