May 25, 2021
Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Leadership Press Conference Transcript May 25
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate GOP leaders held a press conference on May 25, 2021. Read the transcript of the full news briefing speech here.
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Mitch McConnell : (00:00)
Person who’s an ally of the Biden administration, who wants the Biden administration to be successful. Who predicted that the rescue package that the President jammed through on a party line vote a couple of months ago would create rampant inflation. That’s happened. Now, Larry Summers is saying to the Biden administration, “Why don’t you repurpose a lot of the money you sent down to States and localities?” Many of the states are just rolling in money. They’ve got more than they’ve ever had, more than they’ve ever dreamed of. And so, Larry Summers is saying not only would it help reduce the inflationary spiral, but also put to good use that money if it were repurposed for other ambitious goals that the Biden administration has. Just another bit of good advice from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, to his good friends in the Biden administration.
John Thune : (01:04)
Well, I thought we were making some pretty good progress on an infrastructure bill. There were good discussions occurring between Republican senators and the President. Friday clearly was the setback. My impression is that the staff at the white house isn’t as inclined to make a deal, perhaps, as the President is, but we’ve got people who are working in good faith. Shelly Kapito, John Browser, or Roy Blunt, others are involved with these efforts to try and get a deal on infrastructure that would be good for our economy and good for the country and could be a bipartisan agreement. But at the moment, they don’t seem to be interested in that. I hope that that changes.
John Thune : (01:46)
They’re talking about doing this on a short timeline. Well, if you look at FAA reauthorization, highway surface transportation bills, water resources development act bills, they’ve all taken over a year to get done. That doesn’t mean that this needs to take a year, but I do think that our members are sitting down in good faith trying to come to a conclusion along the lines of what the leader suggested, and that is to take some of these funds that could be repurposed and put to a good use. On another matter, with the vaccination levels being up, lots of people are getting back outside, lots of cookouts as we head into the summer season. Lots of meat, a lot of beef being consumed in this country. And we’ve got a problem right now in the beef industry in America. And the people who are losing are the people who produce the beef, the ranchers, the farmers, and the consumers.
John Thune : (02:38)
Because what meat packers are doing right now is buying low and selling high. And there is a huge discrepancy between what a producer makes when he sells his animal and what the packer is getting as a return. There are a lot of ranchers across this country, cattle producers who are really struggling. We have asked Senator Ernst, Senator Barrasso and I, and others, the Justice Department to follow up on an investigation that they started last year, which hasn’t been completed yet to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the beef industry and whether or not those prices in those markets are being manipulated. I hope they will follow through with that and that we will get some answers because we have a lot of livestock producers in this country who are struggling right now at a time when prices are high and everybody else seems to be benefiting from it except the consumer and the individual producing that beef.
Senator John Barrasso: (03:36)
Well, when it comes to infrastructure, it’s no surprise we are now very far apart. We were pretty close when we met with President Biden in the white house. So one of two things has happened. Either he has changed his mind or Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have overridden what the President told us because they have members of their caucus who are now recommending $7.1 trillion in significant Liberal spending and it is a massive amount of spending on social programs. And to do this, of course, they’re talking about the largest tax increase in a generation. Republicans are continuing to focus on things that the American people think of when we talk about infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, broadband.
Senator John Barrasso: (04:29)
The Democrats are trying to redefine infrastructure to include lots of things and they have a long list of social spending on their wishlist. So the meeting that we had with the white house on Friday to me represented a retreat by the white house from focusing on the things that we talked about with President Biden, which was physical infrastructure. So if President Biden wants to be middle class Joe and focus on physical infrastructure, then he’s going to find a willing partner in Republicans. But if on the other hand, he’s going to be the $6 trillion or $7 trillion man with massive amounts of spending and huge tax increases at a time when inflation is roaring back and at a time that America’s small businesses are trying to recover from a pandemic, then he is going to find no Republican support.
Speaker 4: (05:34)
Well, I think we’re still expecting the white house to send their budget up either late this week or early next week. That discretionary budget will be about one and a half trillion dollars. Put what was just said by Senator Barrasso in some context here, they’re proposing spending $7.1 trillion that is an addition to the one and a half trillion dollars that we are supposedly going to debate and run through committee and do all the things so that you carefully spend people’s money. Now there’s no question with the pandemic last year, we all got a little desensitized to how much money we were spending to fight the pandemic and save the economy. But $7.1 trillion would be about double what we spent last year when we were totally involved and surrounded by the pandemic.
Speaker 4: (06:31)
Very little of it has anything to do with the pandemic and what people consider to be the spending [inaudible 00:06:42] debate for the United States of America on discretionary spending is just a small fraction of what they’re talking about spending in every other category you can think of in what would normally have to be discretionary spending, go through the appropriating committees, be paid for as part of that process. $7.1 trillion is more in today’s dollars than we spent to win World War II. We have a lot of challenges in front of us that the government needed to deal with, but none of them are World War II.
Speaker 4: (07:16)
If we spend $7.1 trillion, that adds $56,000 for every American family to the national debt. Every American family can do a lot with $56,000. They could send somebody to a public institution of higher learning for about five years for $56,000. They could make a lot of house payments for $56,000. That’s how much $7.1 trillion would add to the balance sheet for every single family in America. We’ve got to get reasonable and real about spending or inflation will be a problem, government stability will be a problem, the dollar will be a problem, and we don’t want any of those things to happen.
Joni Ernst : (08:05)
I’m back on the 99 county tour and this last weekend I made several stops. One of them was in a community called Ottumwa. And in Ottumwa I heard from a number of small business owners that were very concerned about getting people back to work. They can not find the help that they need. So the President continues to say, “It’s not the enhanced unemployment benefits keeping people home,” well, yes, folks, it is. And so, it is time to end the $300 extra each week that those unemployment recipients are receiving. If we can end that we can get people back to work. In Iowa, our economy is open. We are open. We have been for a while. The problem is we have so many small businesses that simply can’t get up and go because they don’t have the employees.
Joni Ernst : (09:05)
So again, heard from small business owners in Ottumwa, Iowa. One of the other stops was in Oskaloosa, Iowa and the folks there were very, very interested in infrastructure. So their community leaders are applying for a grant and they wanted to know about the infrastructure package. Will it get done this year? And I said, “Well, that depends on what you believe infrastructure to be.” For them, they need a bypass, a highway bypass around their community. That is what Iowans believe infrastructure to be. So if this administration would take a look at what we did in the EPW committee the last two congresses, they would see where we worked on infrastructure in a bipartisan manner.
Joni Ernst : (09:50)
So we are hopeful that the President will look at the work we have done in EPW, we’ll be working on a bill this week, act on that bill. Use that as the basis of an infrastructure package and we can move it forward. Again, bipartisan this is what Americans think of as infrastructure; roads, bridges, waterways locks and dams, and throw in some broadband and we’ve got a bill. So let’s go back to doing things in a bipartisan manner.
Speaker 6: (10:22)
Our biggest national security threat is communist China, the party. The government of communist China, whether it’s covering up the COVID-19 virus, stealing our jobs or technology, putting a million people in prison for their religion, harvesting organs involuntarily, taking away the basic rights of Hong Kong citizens. They’re a despicable government. We all have to figure out how are we going to compete against communist China, we clearly have a new cold war.
Speaker 6: (10:46)
So I think it’s important for all Americans to stop buying Chinese products. It’s important for all of us to understand that we’re in a fight for the future of this country. On top of that, we have the opportunity to move the Olympics. The Olympics are going to be held, the winter Olympics in communist China in ’22, they ought to be moved to the United States.
Speaker 7: (11:07)
This morning you called [inaudible 00:11:09] comments, reprehensible. But should Republican leaders do more, either censor her or even expel her from the house for these comments?
Mitch McConnell : (11:17)
Well, she doesn’t serve in the Senate, but this is one of the frequent outbursts that are absolutely outrageous and reprehensible. But any punishment I assume, would have to be administered by the house.
Speaker 7: (11:33)
Would you recommend anything to Kevin McCarthy?
Speaker 8: (11:36)
Are there any changes that could be made to the house January 6th commission that will win your support, or are you opposed to the concept altogether?
Mitch McConnell : (11:44)
Yeah, let’s review where we are. Our democratic friends have all voted to impeach the President already based on what happened January the 6th. And they actually all voted to impeach him earlier. So I think it’s pretty clear, they have a formed opinion about former President Trump expressing unified support for impeachment, not once, but twice. With regard to future security, Senator Blunt, who’s standing right by me and Senator Portman are involved in bipartisan work through the regular order and two Senate committees to come up with a report on how to prevent this from happening again. With regard to those who encroached upon the capital, I think the last count is there 445 pending cases. It’s a top priority for the new attorney general.
Mitch McConnell : (12:46)
They’re pursuing all of those people vigorously, vigorously, and bringing them to justice. So what would an additional report be about? I think at the heart of this recommendation by the Democrats is that they would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past. They’d like to continue to litigate the former President into the future. We think the American people, going forward, and in the fall of ’22 ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choice is that we have made to oppose most of these initiatives. So I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information. It doesn’t allow anyone to get away with anything. All of these aspects of it are being dealt with in one way or another already.
Speaker 9: (13:53)
A number of your centers, including yourself, are proposing resolutions to condemn antisemitism. But are you concerned that it might undercut the GOP’s authority on this issue that there’s a lawmaker going around comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust?
Mitch McConnell : (14:11)
Well, I’ve already said how I felt about the congresswoman’s utterances, but the antisemitism problem is a big problem. I can tell you as the proud husband of an Asian American, that we’ve addressed a hate crimes against Asian Americans and now we’re seeing an outburst of antisemitism in our own country. I mean, we’re accustomed to seeing this around the world, but not in our own country. And so, Senator Cotton and I have introduced a bill to begin to address that. Whether it’s anti-Asian or antisemitic, this is completely unacceptable in the United States of America.