Oct 20, 2020
GOP Senate Leadership Press Conference Transcript October 20: Covid Relief & Amy Coney Barrett
Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senators held a press conference on October 20 to discuss coronavirus relief and the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (03:38)
Good afternoon, everyone. Obviously the coronavirus is surging across the country, in my state and many others as well. I think I can safely say that I and most of my members believe that another package is important. We’ve been trying to pass something that we think is targeted directly at the greatest need literally for months.
Mitch McConnell: (04:08)
I put a package on the floor a month ago that every Republican but one voted for, and all the Democrats voted against. A package that I think would enjoy unanimous support on both sides, except that the Democratic argument appears to continue to be, if we can’t have everything we want, we won’t allow anything to pass.
Mitch McConnell: (04:33)
My members think that we need to try to address this again. We’ll vote on the popular PPP Loan Program today and the larger $500 billion package tomorrow. I don’t anticipate that we will get any Democratic votes, but we wanted to make the point to the American people, the Senate Republicans believe another package is important and we’ve crafted one that we think includes things that are not controversial.
Mitch McConnell: (05:03)
I’m aware that discussion continued between the president and the speaker about a larger package. Obviously, if that were to come over, we’d have to consider it and would consider it.
Mitch McConnell: (05:19)
With regard to the Supreme Court justices, I think you’ve already written, we’ll be voting to confirm justice to be Barrett next Monday. And I think that will be another signature accomplishment in our effort to put on the courts, the federal courts, men and women who believe in the quaint notion that maybe the job of the judge is to actually follow the law.
Speaker 2: (05:49)
Well, as the leader pointed out, we will have an opportunity this afternoon to vote on coronavirus relief legislation that is targeted, that is fiscally responsible, that addresses all the issues that both Democrats and Republicans have said they want to have addressed, whether it’s unemployment insurance, loans for small businesses through the PPP Program, funding so that schools can open safely, additional funding for healthcare and actually beating this crisis, which means funding for testing and therapeutics and vaccines, all things on which there’s bipartisan agreement. We’re going to have that vote again. That’s where Republicans are coming from. That’s where we’ve been coming from since the very beginning on this.
Speaker 2: (06:33)
What the Democrats are advocating as an all or nothing approach that holds coronavirus relief hostage to a bunch of left-wing demands. And essentially what they’re saying is, if you don’t move over here and give us everything we want, there’s no deal. And so what essentially they’re saying to the American people is, if you don’t give us $2.4 trillion, which is what their demand currently is, the most recent CBO score, then you’re going to end up with $0. That’s basically the Democrat position. It’s an all or nothing approach.
Speaker 2: (07:13)
Again, we are going to continue to advocate for policies that are targeted, that are fiscally responsible, and that deliver the assistance to the American people where it’s really needed.
Speaker 2: (07:24)
To the point about the Supreme Court. She is a wonderful nominee. I think everybody got an opportunity to see that last week. She acquitted herself extremely well in front of the committee. I was proud of all our judiciary committee members, the way they handled that hearing. I think it was great. In fact, even the ranking Democrat, Senator Feinstein, on the committee indicated that she was very impressed with the nominee and thought that the hearing was conducted in a very fair and balanced way. I agree with her on that point. I think she’s absolutely right. This is a terrific nominee.
Speaker 2: (07:56)
As the leader pointed out, we’re on a schedule now to confirm her early next week and we intend to do that because I think we all believe, on the Republican side, that we want justices on the Supreme Court who are there to apply, interpret the law and the Constitution, in an impartial way, to call balls and strikes, not to rewrite the rules of the game. She is a Constitutionalist, she made that very clear, and that’s what we want to see on the Supreme Court and in all the federal courts.
John Barrasso: (08:28)
Well, Republicans are ready to vote for urgently needed relief for the American public and the bill that we’re going to be taking a look at is $500 billion. A very significant amount of money aimed at patients, aimed at workers, and aimed at school children. That’s where the needs truly are.
John Barrasso: (08:48)
If you take a look at this, it’s a second round of paycheck protection for small businesses, it’s $100 billion for our children to be back in school safely. It’s unemployment benefits for people who, for no fault of their own, are out of work, it’s money for vaccines, additional money to develop vaccines and then to distribute those vaccines. That’s what the American people need. There is an urgency and the need to act is now.
John Barrasso: (09:15)
If Nancy Pelosi were actually serious about doing relief for the American people, she would tell her deputy, Chuck Schumer, to get on the bill that we’re bringing to the floor today.
John Barrasso: (09:27)
If Nancy Pelosi were actually serious, she would eliminate all the things in her legislation that have nothing to do with coronavirus, and she would eliminate the poison pills.
John Barrasso: (09:36)
If Nancy Pelosi were really serious, she’d call back this do nothing Democrat House of Representatives to Congress to work with us on finding solutions for the American people.
John Barrasso: (09:47)
But Nancy Pelosi isn’t serious. That’s because she doesn’t want anything to pass. She and Chuck Schumer have made a calculated decision, it’s a political decision, that nothing is going to pass until after election day, because they believe that they have better chances of success on election day if the American people are held hostage all the way through then.
John Barrasso: (10:09)
The American people need to see clearly what is happening. And I know certainly in Wyoming, they do see clearly what is happening. We’re going to vote. The Democrats are going to vote today and tomorrow against something, and then they’re going to say, they’re for it.
John Barrasso: (10:22)
Let us be clear. The Democrats are acting out of selfish, political reasons, not because they’re trying to help the people that they claim that they represent.
Speaker 4: (10:38)
Well, the speaker knows how to get things done if she wants to get things done. And she also knows the way to get things done is not to say, give me everything I want or I don’t want anything. And not just the money, but the policy. This is not just been a debate about the money, which is well beyond the money we need to do the job that needs to be done. But it’s also not just about spending the amount of money they want to spend, but more and more it’s about spending it exactly the way they want to spend it. That will not produce a result.
Speaker 4: (11:13)
I think it’s incredibly unfortunate, as Senator Barrasso just said, there’s money in our package to complete the incredible effort we’re making on vaccines, the incredible effort we’re making on testing, to be sure that both vaccines and tests have the money necessary to get distributed and widely used. And that shouldn’t wait until the middle of December or the middle of January or the middle of February. That needs to happen right now.
Speaker 4: (11:44)
But it’s not the way to legislate. Nobody knows that better than the speaker. It is not the way to reach a conclusion. It’s the best way you can almost assure you’re not going to reach a conclusion, which is to say, give me everything I want or I don’t want anything.
Speaker 5: (12:06)
The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the most popular bi-partisan supported programs in our CARES package, or the COVID-19 relief package. And I am very excited that we will have the opportunity to vote on the Paycheck Protection Program once again, and allow a second pass for those small businesses that have been hit the hardest.
Speaker 5: (12:30)
In Iowa over 61,000 small businesses benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program, so I’m very hopeful that we can come together on the floor of the Senate and that Democrats will join us again in one of the most bipartisan programs available during COVID-19. We really need to make sure our small businesses are supported and that our moms and dads have opportunity to remain employed and then to go back to work.
Speaker 5: (12:59)
Moving on to Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit through the judiciary hearings this past week and Judge Barrett is very poised even when she was being interrupted and really pushed around by our Senate Democrat colleagues. They wouldn’t allow her to answer the questions, they kept interrupting, but through all of that, she just held herself with an extraordinary level of grace and poise. And not only that, bottom line she’s an exceptional jurist. She’s been highly commended by liberals and conservatives and academia and all across the board. So we are very excited about the opportunity to put on the Supreme Court another justice who will uphold and defend our Constitution.
Speaker 5: (13:54)
Bottom line, that’s what Iowans are looking for, someone who will defend our Constitution. And so this Thursday, when it is brought up for a vote, I look forward to casting my support in favor of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be our next Supreme Court Justice.
Speaker 6: (14:19)
Well, evidently Speaker Pelosi and national Democrats believe that giving the American people, during a time of great need, nothing is better than giving them something. I think she misreads the opinion of the American people as she makes that judgment. But we here in the Republican controlled Senate will once again take a stab this week at providing much needed targeted relief to the American people.
Speaker 6: (14:49)
We’ll provide them relief so that their healthcare can be assured during this time. We’ll provide them relief so that they can safely return to work and to school. I’m hopeful that we might get some bipartisan assistance this go round, but not particularly optimistic. In the meanwhile, we will continue discussions. We will continue to see if negotiations might lead to a broader breakthrough when it comes to a package. And it’s my hope that that can happen, but I am not optimistic. Once again, Nancy Pelosi seems to prefer nothing over something during a time of American’s greatest need.
Speaker 6: (15:31)
On the positive front, the Senate Judiciary Committee just had an outstanding hearing last week and the American people were able to get a front row seat as they watched Amy Coney Barrett, from the great state of Indiana, demonstrate her knowledge of the law, demonstrate that she certainly has command of the facts of particular cases, that her means of jurisprudence is infused with great integrity. She is someone who doesn’t intend to legislate from the bench, but instead to apply the law of the land to the facts of a given case. And along the way, the American people increasingly became supportive of her nomination and they support confirmation before the election.
Speaker 6: (16:18)
I very much look forward to voting as we turn towards Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation vote, to voting in support of Amy Coney Barrett. And I think we will find that this is one Hoosier for years to come who will be serving this country with great honor and distinction.
Does your Skinny Bill contain another round of stimulus checks for all Americans?
Mitch McConnell: (16:44)
No, it doesn’t. But it does address an awful lot of things that we do agree on. And I don’t think the fact that those checks are not a part of this package, as others have said, is a good argument for not doing what we are laying on the floor, most of which is completely without controversy.
Why did you decide not to include another round of stimulus checks?
Mitch McConnell: (17:10)
We thought about $500 billion was appropriate at this juncture. No one would argue the economy’s in good shape, but it’s noteworthy that unemployment is about 8.4%, which is what it was in several years during the Obama first term. We clearly have way too many people unemployed and we do continue the plus up of unemployment insurance.
I just want to clarify something you said earlier, first. You said that if Pelosi and Mnuchin do reach an agreement that you will consider the legislation. Does that mean bringing it to the floor?
Mitch McConnell: (17:49)
Well, yeah. If a presidentially supported bill clears the House, at some point we’ll bring it to the floor. Yes.
Has the president asked you to move forward on that or to support it and to get your members to support it?
Mitch McConnell: (18:05)
We’d have to see what it was first. There’s been no deal announced. If a deal is announced, then it’ll have to be written. Then people will have a chance to take a look at it. Then it’ll have to clear the house. And if all of that occurs, of course, we would consider it in the Senate.
Universally, he’s talking about a price tag of $1.8 trillion. He says he wants to go higher than 2.2 trillion. Are you personally, Senator, comfortable with spending that amount of money?
Mitch McConnell: (18:32)
Well, what I’m telling you is that if such a deal were to clear the House, obviously with a presidential signature promise, we would put it on the floor of the Senate and let the Senate consider it.
Do you have any reaction to the tremendous amounts of money that are flowing into some of these Senate races on behalf of Democratic candidates? Some of your GOP colleagues say that maybe campaign finance rules need to be reviewed. Do you have any reaction to that?
Mitch McConnell: (19:02)
Well, let me give a shout out to the Democrats. The lion’s share of the money that’s flooding into campaigns, it’s coming from small donors. I give you an example of my own campaign. I’ve got over 700,000 donors, and the average contribution is about 35 bucks. I don’t think any kind of campaign finance reform designed at producing fewer people interested is a good idea. And as you know, I’ve been in the forefront for 25 years of fending off efforts by the government to restrict campaign contributions, because it is the only way normal citizens get to participate, other than voting.
I guess the point though is that contributions that are $200, you don’t know where they’re coming from. They don’t have to be disclosed.
Mitch McConnell: (19:55)
Because they’re below 200 bucks?
Mitch McConnell: (19:56)
Well, I don’t think anybody giving less than 200 bucks would be somebody trying to buy influence.
Senator McConnell, is it appropriate for the president to continue attacking Dr. Fauci in the way that he has recently?
Mitch McConnell: (20:08)
Well, one thing they both agree on is that shutting down the economy again is not a good idea. And as you guys have heard me say repeatedly since the 1st of May, the one thing we all need to do is wear our masks, practice social distancing, try to prevent the spread. It’s clear that we’re having a second round of surge. And the only thing each of us can do until we get a vaccine, is to act as responsibly as possible. That’s what I and my members are doing. That’s why the Senate has been in session since the 1st of May. Thanks.
Do you have confidence in Dr. Fauci? Senator McConnell, do you have confidence in Dr. Fauci? [crosstalk 00:20:50].