Democrats Blocking COVID Aid over Slush Funds for States Awash in Revenue
‘What Republicans have done, since July, is make one attempt after another to generate a consensus package that can be signed into law. What Senate Democrats have done is recite an endless chain of changing stories about why nothing that anyone proposes is any good.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding floor business and COVID-19 relief:
“The Senate needs to pass a stopgap funding measure today to prevent a lapse while the bipartisan, bicameral efforts close in on a full-year funding bill.
“And we need to advance what will be the 60th annual defense authorization bill.
“This year’s NDAA will cement the historic steps that Congress and the Trump Administration have taken over the past four years to rebuild and re-equip a 21st-century fighting force.
“It directs investments in technologies to maintain our strategic edge. It makes critical supply chains more secure and the Pentagon more accountable. And in the face of threats ranging from adversaries to this pandemic, it expands efforts to keep our men and women in uniform safe.
“I remain hopeful that essential progress on these items will continue. We ought to pass a full-year funding measure, and I hope our committees in the Senate and the House can complete their work and deliver legislation next week.
“That said, we know the American people’s eyes are trained on the Capitol for another reason, as well.
“Struggling families, exhausted health workers, and anxious small business owners are waiting for the Senate to do what I’ve tried to accomplish over and over for months:
“Pass a significant, targeted COVID relief package built on all the areas where bipartisan consensus already exists.
“We know what that common ground looks like.
“A new second round of the Paycheck Protection Program so hard-hit small businesses can keep paying their people.
“The necessary investments in distribution to get life-saving vaccines to our people.
“An extension of some unemployment programs that will otherwise expire in a matter of days.
“Republicans have been crystal-clear about the sort of urgent and unobjectionable relief we’re ready to deliver.
“I even offered to temporarily set aside one of our side’s major requests — common-sense legal protections to aid the re-opening — if Democrats drop their own controversial outstanding demands.
“But day after day, the Democratic Leader finds new reasons not to compromise; new ways to avoid taking “yes” for an answer.
“In what universe should emergency aid for small business be contingent on massive bailouts for state governments with no linkage to actual needs?
“Democrats are acting like it’s more important to supply the Governor of California with a special slush fund than to help restaurant workers in California keep their jobs.
“Oh and by the way, these demands for state and local government giveaways are blocking urgent aid for struggling families at a time when many states’ tax revenues have largely gone up!
“In November, California admitted their tax revenue for this fiscal year was running about 19% ahead of what they had predicted.
“Their governor said earlier this week that he foresees a tax windfall — not a horrible budget crunch, but a windfall — of nearly $16 billion.
“State lawmakers are preparing to argue over where to put all this unexpected tax money. According to the L.A. Times, they’re considering topping up the state’s cash reserves. They aren’t just getting by, they’re putting money away.
“Here’s another headline from a few days back: ‘Massachusetts tax revenue[s] eclipse total for last November despite COVID-driven recession.’ Another state where revenues are actually up over last year.
“Whatever future problems Democrats may think they see around the corner, it is preposterous to claim these blue states that are bragging about their tax windfalls must receive another federal handout right this instant, before working families can get one penny more.
“Small businesses need saving now. Unemployed people need relief extended now. Vaccine distribution networks need funding now. None of that should be held hostage over inter-governmental bailouts for states that are currently raking in revenue faster than they can spend it.
“And yet the Speaker and the Democratic Leader have persuaded their entire conference that nothing should pass unless the Governors of California and New York get to cut the line and jump in front of the millions of Americans who are trying to figure out how to pay their bills each month.
“Then there is Democrats’ apparently strong opposition to enacting any kind of legal protections to aid the re-opening.
“Targeted, temporary liability reforms are a common feature of national emergencies or strange events. The Y2K mess. September 11th. This is not some new concoction; it’s what Congress has done in the past.
“But this time, Democrats say the trial lawyers’ interests must come first.
“They’re threatening to kill any compromise whatsoever unless Congress leaves small businesses, universities, and healthcare workers as sitting ducks for frivolous lawsuits.
“My colleagues across the aisle want to present this stance as some bold crusade against evil corporations. Well, for one thing, it’s the big corporations who can afford massive legal departments.
“Lawsuits are not exactly alien from the perspective of the Fortune 100.
“No, it is small business advocates who have been pleading Congress to pass legal protections since May. It’s been college presidents and higher-education experts who’ve sounded this alarm this whole time.
“About seven in ten small business owners said a second pandemic of lawsuits was a major concern.
“University administrators told us liability is, quote, ‘a national problem requiring a national solution’ that could produce ‘a chilling effect’ on American education if not addressed.
“But Democrats are threatening to walk away altogether if Republicans try to give these institutions what they need.
“So look, a legislator’s true position lies in what they do, not what they say.
“What Republicans have done, since July, is make one attempt after another to generate a consensus package that can be signed into law.
“What Senate Democrats have done is recite an endless chain of changing stories about why nothing that anyone proposes is any good.
“If my friends actually oppose PPP funding, vaccine distribution money, or extending some expiring unemployment aid, let’s hear why.
“But if they do not oppose these things, let’s get them out the door.
“I’ve proposed setting aside both liability protections and state-and-local bailouts, and making law where we agree. Democrats have thus far declined. But at the same time, they are blocking an agreement on those issues.
“So unless something changes, they’ll get to explain to a restaurant owner that Democrats didn’t let her get a second PPP loan to save her business because her Governor needed a special slush fund.
“Or explain to a laid-off worker that his relief program may expire completely because Democrats didn’t feel it was urgent.
“Or explain to an older couple, who’ve hunkered down and survived this long year, that their vaccines will arrive later than necessary because Democrats wouldn’t let us fund distribution.
“If my Democratic friends don’t want to explain these inexplicable things, then they need to let this body act.”
Related Issues: Jobs, Health Care, Senate Democrats, COVID-19, NDAA, Small Business