COVID-19 Relief Update: “Let’s Make Law As Soon As Possible”
‘Essential workers have kept our nation running. Healthcare professionals have worked day and night to care for strangers. Heroic American businesses have adapted, reinvented, and obeyed the advice of medical experts. Now we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Operation Warp Speed has given us safe and effective vaccines in record time. But the American people need another bridge to those better days that are not so far off. The country needs Congress to come through with another, targeted r
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding appropriations and COVID-19 relief:
“We in Congress are no strangers to December funding deadlines or the occasional pre-Christmas cliffhanger.
“In that respect, the situation we face now is familiar. Funding for the federal government is hanging in the balance. In the next few days, Congress will either succeed or fail at providing secure and stable funding for our military commanders, our federal departments, and key investments for our future.
“Fortunately, our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and their House counterparts have been on the case. Bipartisan, bicameral committee work has full-year government funding legislation on the one-yard line.
“I’m optimistic that if we can close out our other, parallel business, we should be able to fund the government and move forward together.
“But that brings me to the way in which this year is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
“It’s been more than nine months since our nation began to feel the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The American people have done what Americans do when crises come knocking.
“Essential workers have kept our nation running. Healthcare professionals have worked day and night to care for strangers. Heroic American businesses have adapted, reinvented, and obeyed the advice of medical experts.
“Now we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Operation Warp Speed has given us safe and effective vaccines in record time. But the American people need another bridge to those better days that are not so far off. The country needs Congress to come through with another, targeted rescue package.
“They’ve waited months. They’ve waited, and suffered, and some have died while needless political games have played out. The American people’s wait for more emergency assistance ought to be over.
“For months, I’ve called for a targeted, bipartisan package that would put hundreds of billions of dollars into payroll support, testing, vaccine distribution, extending unemployment aid, safe schools, and other essential priorities.
“So I’m encouraged that our Democratic colleagues have now embraced this framework, that’s been the right solution for our country all this time. And a bipartisan, bicameral agreement appears to be close at hand.
“The outline that I’ve been discussing with the Democratic Leader, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy would get another huge dose of bipartisan support out the door as fast as possible.
“We have yet to nail down every detail. But in broad strokes:
“We’ve been discussing the targeted second round of the job-saving Paycheck Protection Program that Republicans have sought since the summer.
“We’re discussing many tens of billions of dollars for distributing vaccines, COVID testing, and equipping safe schools to get our kids’ educations back on track. We’re discussing extending important unemployment programs.
“At the particular urging of President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin, who have continued to be the champions of cash relief for American families, we’re discussing more direct impact payments for individuals, plus the bonus for families with children.
“These are just some of the major pillars. And equally important, we’re agreeing to be smart about financing these extraordinary policies.
“We intend to repurpose more than $400 billion in unspent funds which we already allocated in the CARES Act. It turned out these funds did not need to be tapped to restore basic stability to our economy. It’s time we put that money to urgent use.
“Like I said at this time yesterday, I am heartened by our discussions and our progress. I believe all sides are working in good faith toward our shared goal of getting an outcome.
“But I will say this. In my judgement we’re very close to a point that arises in every major negotiation. It’s the point where each side faces a fork in the road.
“Do we want to lapse into politics as usual and let negotiations lose steam?
“Do we want to haggle and spar like this were an ordinary political exercise; get wrapped around the axle of language or policy riders that we know are controversial?
“Or, on the other hand, after months of inaction, do we want to move swiftly and with unusual bipartisanship to close out our issues, seal the deal, and write text that we can quickly pass into law?
“In short, we’re near the point in this process where we decide if we’re going to stay on the fast track… or drift back toward business as usual.
“I say the answer is obvious. After all these months, struggling Americans don’t just need action; they need action fast.
“So I continue to appreciate our productive discussions. But I hope we also remember just how urgent the situation is for millions and millions of our fellow citizens.
“For the information of all Senators, we are going to stay right here until we are finished, even if that means working into or through the weekend.
“And if we need to further extend the Friday funding deadline before final legislation can pass in both chambers, I hope we only extend it for a very, very short window of time.
“Our citizens can’t afford for us to get bogged down in the back-and-forth. Let’s finish up our bipartisan framework. Let’s make law as soon as possible. That’s what our people deserve.”
Related Issues: Jobs, Appropriations, COVID-19, Education, Health Care, Economy, Small Business