Even Prominent Democrats’ Most Urgent COVID Priorities Are Already Addressed in Republican Proposal
‘Republicans and Democrats do not need to resolve every one of our differences to get badly-needed relief out the door… We just need both sides to finally do what members of Congress do when they’re serious about wanting an outcome: Drop the all-or-nothing tactics, drop the hostage-taking, and make law in the many places where we have common ground.’
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:
“We’ve reached the time of year when the Senate has more important outstanding business than we have days to complete it.
“Delivering for the American people will take focus, dexterity and real bipartisanship.
“On government funding, as I’ve said for weeks, it’s my hope that our committees’ work will bear fruit and a full-year funding package will come to the floor in both chambers.
“I anticipate that the Senate will take up a one-week extension this week so the government does not close on December 11th and work can continue through the end of next week.
“The nation needs our Democratic colleagues to resist the temptation to play brinkmanship with long-settled policy issues or push poison-pill riders that they know would tank the process.
“We also expect to receive and pass a conference report of the annual defense authorization. And we need to continue confirming impressive nominees to vacancies in the judiciary and the executive branch.
“We Senators are no strangers to end-of-year drama. But this time, the stakes are far higher.
“We’re up against another, even steeper surge in COVID-19 cases than we saw in the spring.
“Workers and small businesses are once again struggling to make ends meet as states and localities step up precautions.
“And while the latest news on vaccine trials suggests that that victory over this virus may soon be within reach, our work in that area is far from complete. As one recent article put it, ‘State [and] local officials plead for vaccine distribution funds’.
“Our nation’s historic sprint to victory through vaccines seems poised to succeed in record time. But the critical last step -- getting hundreds of millions of doses out to the American people -- is still in front of us.
“Congress cannot stay on the sidelines.
“Now yesterday, our colleague from Illinois, the Democratic Whip, gave an interview in which he named three examples of highly urgent matters that need to be addressed for our nation right now.
“Here are three things Senator Durbin mentioned as flashing-red urgent priorities:
“The millions of people who are going to lose… their unemployment insurance the day after Christmas…’
“The businesses that are trying to decide… whether or not they can continue…’
“And ‘the vaccine logistics… to make sure that this vaccine is on the road and vaccinating people across America as quickly as possible.’
“Those are the three urgent issues he named as examples: Extending unemployment insurance; helping small businesses; and funding vaccine distribution.
“I do not question the sincerity of our colleague, who I believe is engaged in these discussions in good faith.
“But these comments illustrate perfectly a point that Republicans have been making for weeks.
“Those three urgent issues are issues where there is almost total bipartisan consensus. No real disagreement whatsoever.
“In fact, the framework for a smart, targeted relief package that I put forward last week — something which Democrats quickly attacked — would have resolved all three of those subjects.
“The targeted Republican framework extends unemployment insurance programs that will otherwise expire. It creates an entire second round of the Paycheck Protection Program for the hardest-hit small businesses. And it lays groundwork to distribute the vaccines that appear to be on the horizon.
“Check, check, and check.
“The Democratic Whip is right to recognize these three subjects as especially urgent. They are!
“That’s why Republicans have been trying over and over to get them passed.
“That’s why Republicans have been saying for months that Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Leader should let Congress get outcomes in all the places where we already agree, rather than holding everything hostage over their most controversial partisan demands.
“But month after month after month, it is the Democratic leaders who have said that no relief whatsoever can pass, no consensus items can become law, unless multiple controversial areas where we don’t agree are resolved to the Democrats’ liking.
“That’s why the Democratic Leader had every single Senate Democrat vote to filibuster a targeted COVID-19 rescue package in September and in October. That bill would have taken care of small businesses, unemployment insurance, and vaccine distribution months ago. But Senate Democrats blocked it.
“Well, I think if the Senate Democratic Leader would allow it, the three things the Democratic Whip mentioned — small business aid, re-upping unemployment aid, and setting up vaccine distribution — could pass the Senate by a landslide.
“A targeted compromise on the most urgent items could pass by a massive bipartisan margin. We could easily put together a whole slew of commonsense policies — including those three and other things like legal protections that universities and the American Council on Education have been pleading for — bring it to the floor, and pass it.
“Everybody knows why that hasn’t happened. There’s one reason. The Speaker of the House and the Democratic Leader have spent months tying the most bipartisan, common-sense policies to their most controversial requests, and saying the country can’t get the former unless they get the latter.
“Their strategy has been all or nothing. And so struggling Americans have gotten nothing.
“Well, we are down to the wire.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. Operation Warp Speed seems poised to deliver vaccines on an historic, almost miraculous timetable.
“We have seen some hopeful signs of engagement from our Democratic colleagues. But we have no reason to think the underlying disagreements about policy are going to evaporate overnight.
“Republicans and Democrats do not need to resolve every one of our differences to get badly-needed relief out the door.
“We just need both sides to finally do what members of Congress do when they’re serious about wanting an outcome: Drop the all-or-nothing tactics, drop the hostage-taking, and make law in the many places where we have common ground.
“That’s what this country is counting on. That’s how we can do right by the American people by Christmas.
“So let’s get it done.”
Related Issues: Health Care, Education, Jobs, Senate Democrats, Small Business, COVID-19