Oct 9, 2020
Mitch McConnell Kentucky Press Conference Transcript October 9
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a press conference in Kentucky on October 9. He discussed the coronavirus vaccine and economic stimulus. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:00)
And some of that healthcare provider money made it down to EMF, which is an example of what we have here today. And first responders like police, who were first responders like EMS, we try to help them get through that period. So, where are we now? Clearly, we’re experiencing a resurgence here in Kentucky. We have a case load that’s even bigger than in the spring, and we’re not unique. And it’s obvious that this disease is not gone and isn’t going to be gone until we kill it. And the only way to kill it is with the vaccine.
Mitch McConnell: (00:46)
The good news on the vaccine front is by approaching it, like the Manhattan Project, there is beyond aggression here to tackle this. Many large pharmaceutical companies are toward the end of clinical trials. They are already producing doses in anticipation of the clinical trials working out, a federal agency called BARDA is also helping fund with the smaller pharmaceutical companies this kind of search for a vaccine. There’s a lot of improvement on the treatment side, as well, because we’re learning here about a brand new disease. I’m not going to make a prediction about when we’ll get the vaccine, but I think it’s going to be in record time compared to any other pursuit of a vaccine for this sort of thing. As a polio survivor myself, I remember, as older people here remember, it took decades, decades to finally find a way to inoculate against polio. This is going to be warp speed. In fact, that’s what we call this part of what we funded, Warp Speed Project, to get an outcome.
Mitch McConnell: (02:07)
In the meantime, you asked a logical question, “What do we do?” Well, the only thing each of us can do is to take responsibility for our own behavior, by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, and trying to prevent the spread. In the US Senate, when we went back into session in May after the brief shutdown, I said, “We’re going to demonstrate to the American people that we are absolutely essential workers and that we can work through this pandemic safely.” And we’ve had little or no incidences in the Senate by doing exactly what I said, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and doing the work that we were elected to do. That’s a good lesson for everybody. That’s what we all need to do, because this isn’t going to go away until we get a vaccine. And even when we get one, imagine the number of people who are going to need to be inoculated. We’re going to need a massive number of doses for our country, not to mention, not to mention the whole world. So, this has been an extraordinary experience for all of us.
Mitch McConnell: (03:22)
Finally, let me say, you’ve watched the struggle over trying to get one more rescue package and the differences between the House and the Senate about what’s appropriate. We were able to overcome the partisan passions back in March and April, but as we got closer and closer to the election, it got more and more difficult to try to get everybody together. To give you an example of how far apart we’ve been, the House of Representatives, about a month after we passed the CARES Act and a couple of related measures, and added $3 trillion to the national debt, at that point, we then had a debt the size of our economy for the first time since World War II, at that point. A month later, the House passed a bill that added three trillion more and included such things as the tax cuts for high income people in New York and California and healthcare for illegal immigrants, and a variety of other things that, by any objective standard, had absolutely nothing to do with getting on top of this disease.
Mitch McConnell: (04:37)
A month or so ago, after a good deal of internal discussion, I put on the floor of the Senate, a measure that, to a lot of us, still seemed like a lot of money, but I guess these days sound like chump change. It was about half a trillion dollars. Very narrowly targeted in the following ways. Number one, liability protection for everybody dealing with this unknown disease: doctors, hospitals, nurses, teachers, at the university level and K through 12, businesses. Unless you were grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misbehavior, you couldn’t be successfully sued for how you handle the Coronavirus. It would kick in in December of 2019 and last four years and then go away. So, we’re not permanently rewriting the personal injury laws of any state in America, but a temporary measure to deal with an unknown disease. As everybody, including workers here, we’re struggling to deal with something we’re unfamiliar with, which took her a good deal of courage, I must say. I think the first responders reminded me of the people going into the burning buildings on 9/11. They were exposing themselves to an unknown disease. So, you shouldn’t have to get sued on top of that.
Mitch McConnell: (06:06)
Number two, kids in school. Regardless of whether a local school district decides to teach remotely or back in school, this has been a heavy burden on education in America, and we put in over $100 billion in this proposal that I put on the floor for schools, K through 12, colleges, universities. A replenishment of the popular PPP loan program and more money for healthcare providers, hospitals, and folks like the people behind me. Regretfully, not a single Democrat voted for it. They argued it wasn’t enough. So, I tell you all that just to point out that I believe, and I’ll say this in conclusion, that we do need another rescue package, but the proximity to the election and the differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast.
Mitch McConnell: (07:15)
We’re not going to shut the economy down again. Dr. Fauci said we’re not going to shut the economy down again. He’s right. Remember, that was not without consequences. Spouse abuse up, child abuse up, suicides up, overdoses up, lots of problems associated with being cooped up. So, Dr. Fauci has said, and it’s pretty obvious and I agree with him, shutting down the economy again is not the way to go. So, we need to live and work with this in the most careful way, which is why the mask and the distancing are so important. Hopefully, sometime soon we’ll be able to deal with our differences and come together. I can’t tell you exactly when that might happen, but I do think the economy needs, hopefully, one last rescue package.
Mitch McConnell: (08:10)
I would say this, the economy on its own is struggling to get back pretty successfully. We’ve got a lot of problems, too many people unemployed, a need for continued unemployment insurance. But it’s interesting to note that the unemployment rate nationally is about what it was during a couple of years during the first Obama administration, so the predictions that we’d go up to 20 and 25% have not come true. So, the economy is struggling to get back to normal. We still have a lot of problems, way too many people are unemployed, but we are bouncing back, to some extent. So, with that, I’m going to throw it open here and see what our folks in front of us want to ask about.
Speaker 2: (08:57)
You spoke about, in the meantime, while we’re waiting for this vaccine, everyone be diligent. Of course, everyone here wearing masks, social distancing. We also saw hit home a little bit in the White House, and of course, you and President Trump worked together for the CARES Act. Was that a reminder, a lesson, that everyone that this virus can impact anyone and that everyone needs to follow the guidelines, [inaudible 00:09:18] and local leaders?
Mitch McConnell: (09:19)
Well, I can only tell you about what I thought was appropriate for the Senate, which is where my responsibility lies. And since May 1st, when we went back in, very carefully practiced, based on CDC guidelines and advice with the capital position, and I believe, as a result of that, we have largely successfully been able to work safely. We’ve had a couple of incidences where people have gone into quarantine, had a couple of cases, they’ve all been resolved without hospitalization. So, I think we’ve been able to do it successfully, and the main point I wanted to make is that’s the way we’re operating in the Senate. Perry? Perry?
Two questions. First of all, your reaction to what happened in Michigan involving the governor, the news about the FBI [inaudible 00:10:13] yesterday about the attempt to kill her. I wanted to hear what your reaction is [inaudible 00:10:19] what that tells us about security, [inaudible 00:10:20], that kind of thing. And secondly, I guess a discussion about the airline… There’s some talk about an airline bail out and getting Americans another $1,200 check. Do you support one of those ideas as part of a second COVID package?
Mitch McConnell: (10:37)
Well, it may surprise you, but I really haven’t followed the Michigan situation. On the airline issue, if there’s another package, I think there’s pretty widespread agreement that airlines ought to be a part of it. As to whether the system would swallow an airlines only, if that’s your question, that’s not clear either. So, I just think the situation is kind of murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity of the election and everybody trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that, like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.
Direct payments again? Are you opposed to that form? Direct checks, $1,200 checks, are you for it or against it, on another package?
Speaker 4: (11:29)
The $1,200 checks to individuals.
Mitch McConnell: (11:31)
Oh yeah. That was in the package that I put on the floor. That didn’t get any Democratic votes. And that’s an important… I’m glad you raised that, Perry, because I tell you, the people that have been really been hammered the hardest are the people who work in the hospitality fields, hotels, restaurants. Many of them are at an income level that really gotten whacked. And so, the $1,200 check, we would have done again in the proposal that I put on the floor.
Speaker 5: (12:02)
Good morning, Senator. When was the last time you were with the president?
Speaker 4: (12:07)
The last time you were with the president.
Mitch McConnell: (12:07)
Oh, you mean, in person?
Speaker 5: (12:09)
Mitch McConnell: (12:10)
Back in August. But look, we talk almost every day. The telephone was invented in the late part of the 19th century, and it works quite well.
Speaker 5: (12:20)
What do you think of the president of not agreeing to a virtual debate?
Mitch McConnell: (12:24)
I don’t have any advice to give him. I think the whole issue of debates in a campaign… Candidates always do what they thinks in their own best interest. We’re going to have one here Monday night, and I expect you guys may tune in.
Speaker 6: (12:41)
Senator, what do you make of Speaker Pelosi’s discussion of the 25th Amendment?
Mitch McConnell: (12:47)
Look, that’s absurd. Absolutely absurd. Again, right here in this last three weeks before the election, I think those kinds of wild comments should be largely discounted.
Speaker 7: (13:03)
Any concern about the outbreak in the Senate disrupting the Barrett confirmation hearing?
Mitch McConnell: (13:09)
No, I’m not, because we know how to work safely. I think we’ve demonstrated that since May, and we’re going to have all hands on deck for the Supreme Court nominee. It’s an extremely important thing for the country, and we intend to process the nomination and put her on the Supreme Court.
Speaker 8: (13:26)
When was the last time that you took a test for COVID-19?
Mitch McConnell: (13:32)
I’m following the CDC guidelines, and we’re operating safely. And I think that’s a good answer. Have I ever been tested? Yeah. But am I going to make a daily report? No. It’s not necessary.
Speaker 8: (13:51)
Have you been tested lately?
Mitch McConnell: (13:53)
It’s not necessary to answer those questions. It doesn’t tell you anything. What tells you something is that we’ve been operating safely, based on CDC guidelines and the advice of the capital position, since the 1st of May. And I think that’s a complete answer to all the questions that you might have on that subject. Anyone else?
Speaker 4: (14:19)
Speaker 9: (14:20)
This a slightly separate question, but we had the grand jury hearing yesterday [inaudible 00:14:23] for this anonymous juror to speak publicly in regards to the Breonna Taylor case or not? And then, also-
Speaker 4: (14:32)
A grand juror being able to speak publicly about what happened [crosstalk 00:14:35].
Mitch McConnell: (14:35)
Oh, look, I don’t have any advice to give the law enforcement folks in Kentucky with regard to the Taylor case. It was a horrible tragedy, and we all regret what happened, but I’m going to leave it to the criminal justice system to respond to that. Thanks a lot.
Speaker 4: (14:52)
Thank you, everybody.