Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, for all his fondness of preaching the dignity of work, feels put out by having to spend time on Capitol Hill these days. On Monday, Brown reprimanded Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan for not wearing a mask while he stood in for president pro tempore Chuck Grassley. Brown has not seen fit to chide Chuck Schumer or other members of his own party for repeatedly making speeches on the Senate floor without a mask, but he nevertheless attempted to use Sullivan to create a viral moment. Outlets such as The Hill of course obliged Brown, albeit subtly, by sharing video of the exchange, accompanied by the caption “VIRAL MOMENT.”
What that video reveals, more so than anything about how seriously either Brown or Sullivan takes the pandemic, is just how little dignity Brown finds in his own work. After Brown and Sullivan’s brief back-and-forth, Brown launches into a diatribe about how “we [the Senate] have a majority leader who calls us back here to vote on an unqualified nominee” and that he and his colleagues were being forced “to vote on judge after judge after judge,” potentially exposing themselves and Senate staff to the coronavirus. While millions of Americans go to work to every day — in schools, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, and elsewhere — Sherrod Brown, who has spent the almost nine months since the pandemic began filibustering a meaningful criminal- justice-reform bill and rejecting out-of-hand a $1.8 trillion compromise coronavirus-relief package (Democrats have asked for $2.2 trillion in the form of the HEROES Act) is upset that he has been asked to vote on the nomination of judges to the federal bench, which is part of his constitutional duty as a United States senator.
One almost gets the sense that it is Brown, and not Amy Coney Barrett — who earned the highest possible rating from the nominally nonpartisan, but truthfully left-leaning American Bar Association — who is unworthy of his position.
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