“Democrats Said ‘Our Way or the Highway’”
‘From the beginning, our side has tried everything possible to find common ground and deliver more help. But Democrats said no. At least the American people know the score.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding COVID-19 relief:
“I had hoped that this week, the Senate would be busy providing more coronavirus aid. Chairmen and ranking members would be working overtime, across the aisle, to finalize another major pandemic relief package for the American people.
“After all, there are so many important ways in which American families need help, and which Democrats say they see as big priorities, just like Republicans do.
“Priorities like continuing a federal add-on to unemployment insurance. More tools for schools to safely re-open. More access to testing and diagnostics. More resources to develop vaccines and treatments. A new round of checks to put cash in families’ hands ASAP. Another round of the hugely successful Paycheck Protection Program that small businesses have relied on, which was left out of the Democrats’ proposal.
“All of these things and many more were in Senate Republicans’ trillion-dollar proposal for another coronavirus rescue package focused on kids, jobs, healthcare, and legal protections to help our country re-open.
“So I’d hoped the Senate would be spending this week turning a major agreement into law.
“But sadly for the country, sadly for struggling Americans, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Democratic Leader decided we would not deliver any of that.
“For weeks, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Leader stalled and stalled in backroom negotiations with the Administration’s team. For weeks, they held up important aid over non-COVID-related demands.
“They stayed true to their comments from very early on in this pandemic.
“They saw this pandemic as, quote, “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” That was the House Democratic Whip.
“Speaker Pelosi herself put it this way: “This is an opportunity. Every crisis is.”
“Working families call this pandemic a crisis. They call it a nightmare. But leading Democrats call it “an opportunity.”
“Just listen to some of their demands. These are the Democrat demands that stood between all this help and the Americans who need it.
“Here’s one: Democrats say nobody gets another dime of relief unless state and local governments get about a trillion dollars in extra money.
“Let’s put a few facts on the table.
“Number one: State and local governments have only spent about one fourth of the huge sums we sent them back in the springtime.
“Number two: The economists who have calculated the likely COVID-related shortfalls for state and local governments have mostly produced estimates that are entire multiples less than what Democrats are demanding.
“Number three: In our HEALS Act, Republicans tried to give states and localities extra flexibility around the unspent funds they already have.
“In my state for example, 94% of the money we sent them has not been spent.
“And we wanted to send huge sums to help with schools, which are one of the state’s big expenses. Typically, in a state budget the two biggest items are education and Medicaid.
“But forget all that — Democrats are demanding that we send state and local governments a colossal amount of money, with no relationship to actual need, while they’ve only spent a quarter of the money they’ve already gotten.
“Clearly this isn’t really about COVID at all. Democrats think they smell an opening they have wanted for years — to make Uncle Sam bail out decades of mismanagement and broken policies in places like New York, New Jersey, and California.
“And so they’ve decided that no working family anywhere in America can get another cent unless they get to create a trillion-dollar slush fund for mismanaged states, completely out of proportion to pandemic needs.
“Here’s another one of these far-left demands: Nobody gets another dime unless we indefinitely pay people more to stay home than to go back to work.
“Republicans agree we ought to continue additional federal jobless benefits during this extraordinary time. Senate Republicans tried several times to stop them from expiring. The Democratic Leader blocked us.
“Our view, which a majority of Americans share, is simply that it disincentivizes re-hiring and re-opening to pay people more to stay home.
“Plenty of Democrats said they saw the point and were happy to negotiate on this.
“Speaker Pelosi’s own number-two, the House Majority Leader, said, quote, “it’s not $600 or bust.” The senior Senator from Maryland said, quote: “we certainly understand we don’t want to have higher benefits than what someone can make working.”
“But the Speaker and the Democratic Leader overruled them. No deal unless we pay people more to stay home. It’s not about COVID. It’s not about a real re-opening. It’s about far-left ideology. They preferred for the jobless benefits to go down to zero unless they could pay people more to stay home.
“Does anyone in this country really believe that relief for Americans should be totally contingent on bailing out states for mismanagement that predated this pandemic by decades?
“Does anyone really think that it was better for jobless benefits to completely expire unless we pay people more not to work?
“And does anyone really think that Congress should walk away from countless subjects where a bipartisan agreement should be possible over these fringe positions?
“Do Americans think Democrats should walk away from school funding, testing, cash to households, preventing a spike in seniors’ Medicare premiums, legal reform, and more… over this?
“I think almost every family in America would answer these questions the same way.
“But unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Leader have answered them the opposite way.
“They think they have political leverage over the President of the United States, and so they’re willing to personally increase the pain for vulnerable families unless they get their way on matters not related to COVID-19.
“Republicans wanted to agree on the things we could agree to. Democrats said our way or the highway.
“Republicans wanted to send cash now for schools, testing, and unemployment benefits and argue over state bailouts later. Democrats said nobody gets a penny unless Texas and Florida bail out New Jersey.
“So this is where we are. The previous UI benefits expired. The PPP closed its doors.
“Over the weekend, President Trump took steps to soften the blow of the Democrats’ hostage tactics on American families who need help most.
“His decisions will help spare some Americans some of the pain from the Democrats’ hostage-taking.
“From the beginning, our side has tried everything possible to find common ground and deliver more help. But Democrats said no.
“At least the American people know the score.”
Related Issues: COVID-19, Education, Senate Democrats, Health Care, Economy