Mar 10, 2021
Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference on COVID-19 Relief Transcript March 10
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans held a press conference on March 10, 2021 to discuss the American Rescue Plan. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:01)
They’ve also, by the way, solved the financial problems of San Francisco. They’ve also prevented state governments from lowering taxes. This is a classic example of big government democratic overage in the name of COVID relief. And we all know that what we should’ve been doing and would have been doing, had this been a bi-partisan discussion instead of a jam the other side approach, is 500 or 600 billion dollars directly targeted at the problem.
Mitch McConnell: (00:35)
But of course, the $1.9 trillion dollar problem, as we said repeatedly, the $1.9 trillion package, as we said repeatedly, only had about 1% or less for vaccines, 9% or less for healthcare. So I think this is actually one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen pass here in the time I’ve been in the Senate. We believe the American people need to learn more and more about it. And we’re going to see that they do that in the coming months, as we talk repeatedly about the provisions in the bill that the Democrats do not want to discuss.
John Thune : (01:21)
Well, I just wanted to say how disappointed I am that our good friend, colleague, Roy Blunt, has chosen not to run again for reelection, a real loss for the Senate. He has been a difference maker here, a leader in the Senate, and Roy and I came together in the House back in 1996, 25 years ago, and served there for several years where he became the whip. He’s always been a leader in both the House and the Senate, and on so many issues and so many levels has really contributed to the success that our country has seen over the past few decades. And so grateful for his service and we’ll miss him. We look forward, we’ve got a couple of years to continue to work with them on a lot of challenges. There’s a lot to do out there.
John Thune : (02:07)
And let me just pick up where the leader stopped. And that is to say that the $1.9 trillion bill, that the President will soon sign, is something that is dramatically larger by several dimensions than it needed to be. We could have done a targeted bill. We could have done a fiscally responsible bill. Instead, we did a bill that bails out blue states. $27 billion, American people’s tax dollars, to the state of California, which last year ran a surplus. Checks. Checks to illegals and inmates. A lot of the folks are going to benefit of all this money are going to be people who actually, whether you’re in prison, whether you’re illegal, I think most hard working Americans would think that that’s probably not a good idea to be writing checks to the people who aren’t here legally.
John Thune : (02:59)
And you look at all the money that’s spent on, whether it’s schools, most of which doesn’t get spent until the out years, 5% gets spent this year, 95% in years like ’27, ’28, which hopefully, we’re hoping the pandemic’s going to be long gone by then.
John Thune : (03:17)
But I just think there could have been something that we could have agreed on that would have provided additional money for vaccines. Vaccines is the most important thing that we can do right now. And instead, the Democrats went down a path that literally had payoffs for all of their special interest groups. They had the multi-employer pension plan bail out that was an $86 billion price tag in this bill. And like I said, when the American people find out all the goodies that were tucked in there for special interest groups, I think they’re going to decide, notwithstanding the fact that they might be getting a $1,400 check, that this was a real boondoggle and a bad use of their tax dollars.
John Thune : (03:56)
And if you’re somebody who’s working hard, the little provision that was added at the end, $10,000, basically, tax credit or tax exemption for people who get UI benefits. And so if you’re somebody out there who’s working hard, who’s trying to pay the bills, you’ve got to pay the taxes. But if you’re on unemployment insurance, you get a $10,000 tax exemption for the unemployment benefits that you receive. Just a lot of stuff in there that begs the question about what were they thinking. But it was a liberal wishlist. They have described it as the most progressive domestic legislation in a generation. It certainly lived up to that billing, but it was also a decision consciously made by the Democrat leadership, notwithstanding Republicans’ efforts in the last year to get five coronavirus bills across the finish line, all with bipartisan support, to go one party rule and it loaded up with a lot of their wishlist agenda.
John Thune : (04:54)
And I think that’s an unfortunate outcome for the American people. I hope it’s not a sign of things to come, because if it is, it’s going to be very, very harmful to the country and very, very hard for the Congress, particularly United States Senate, to do the work the American people sent us here to do.
Dr. Barrasso: (05:16)
Tomorrow night, President Biden’s going to address the nation. We’re now one year into the pandemic. Over the last year, many people paid with their lives, others with their livelihood, and all of us with our liberties. Through Operation Warp Speed, we now have three vaccines that are safe and effective. And two million people are getting vaccinated every day. As a result, hospitalizations are going down. The death rate is going down. As his doctor, I will tell you all of these are very good things.
Dr. Barrasso: (05:48)
The economy is also recovering. Last week, we heard that over 370,000 new jobs were added back into the economy. The things I hear about at home in Wyoming is, in terms of across the nation, what about President Biden’s promise to open all the classrooms by the end of the school year? Well, that’s a promise that President Biden will never be able to keep.
Dr. Barrasso: (06:11)
At the same time that the classrooms are closed across the country, the Southern border is wide open. Take a look at the news stories that are coming out, it’s obvious that, in terms of unaccompanied minors, the beds are filled to capacity. In terms of adults coming into the country, many of them are infected currently with coronavirus. They’re still allowed to be released into the United States. They’re being tested, tested positive, and then they get on a bus and carry that disease straight into the Heartland of America. This has to stop. People need to make sure that… The President needs to assure us that our classrooms will be open. Our borders will be closed. That’s what people want to hear about tomorrow night from the President of the United States. They want to hear what are his plans to secure the border, to open the classrooms, and to get America fully back in and recovered.
Speaker 4: (07:10)
I want to join Dr. Barrasso in encouraging people who are willing to have a vaccine, to have a vaccine. There are a certain number of Americans today that just don’t think vaccines are a good idea. I’m not one of them. I wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that required them to have a vaccine, but having the vaccine is the way that gets our economy back to normal. It’s the way that gets our families back to normal. It’s the way it gets us interacting again, like we’d like to interact.
Speaker 4: (07:38)
We have some options now, and frankly, I think they’re all pretty good options. There’s the two shots that really we wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for the investment that we’ve made at NIH over the last several years. So we’ve got a couple of vaccines developed like no vaccines have ever been developed before. Two shots, one three weeks apart, the other one four weeks apart.
Speaker 4: (08:02)
But the shot that we only have one shot does a great job, and you have one shot. You have one visit. Two weeks later, you have the efficacy of that vaccine as well. There are choices here to be made. That one 74%, I think, of the thousands of people that have been tested didn’t get the virus at all. Of the other people that might’ve got it, the cases were often very light, and nobody went to the hospital. So if I was any American that had access to a vaccine, I wouldn’t think that one of them was not as good as the other ones. I’d just try to find the one that met what I thought my schedule and my needs were at the time and get us all to a better place, quicker.
Speaker 4: (08:46)
Operation Warp Speed actually worked. And so we’ve got vaccines that are about two years quicker than we would have had otherwise. I think the President today just announced that he was going to exercise another 100,000 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines that President Trump had already future contracted for, and has come up with some ways to produce those quicker than we might have otherwise. But if they weren’t there, we wouldn’t be producing them. You and I couldn’t have them. I hope every American thinks seriously about the way out of the pandemic and looks at their vaccine options and takes advantage of them as soon as they can.
Speaker 5: (09:31)
We have been able to pass five COVID relief packages in the past year. And unfortunately, Biden’s promise to be the bipartisan president, a president for all Americans, is going out the window today, as he signs this non COVID-19 package, $1.9 trillion. We’re footing the bill for a democratic wishlist of items.
Speaker 5: (10:02)
Now, fortunately, we were able to push back and get a number of items removed, like the $15 federal minimum wage, the bridge to Canada for the state of New York, the subway system for Nancy Pelosi in Silicon Valley. We could go on and on and on with all of the items that have been packed into this non COVID-19 bill.
Speaker 5: (10:29)
Now in just a little over a month, we’re going to hit tax day here in the United States, and my Iowans every year when they’re writing out, if they owe taxes, if they’re writing out a check to the treasury department here at the federal level, or if they’re writing a check to the Iowa Department of Revenue, what they never expected they would have to do is write a footnote on those checks, saying bail out for New York, bail out for Illinois, bail out for California.
Speaker 5: (11:03)
My hardworking Iowans shouldn’t be paying to balance the budgets of states that have not been able to manage theirs, when Iowa does a tremendous job in taking care of our own finances. So I am very, very disappointed in this administration and in the Democrats for refusing to work with Republicans and for their promoting their liberal wishlist over the hopes of the American people.
Rick Scott: (11:39)
Well, I’m extremely disappointed in Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. This is a very partisan bill and has a lot of provisions that my colleagues have talked about. Getting stimulus checks to state and federal inmates, getting checks to illegal immigrants, spending over $600 million for PBS and National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, which has nothing to do with COVID. Giving paid leave but only to federal workers. None of these things are things that people in Florida were looking forward to.
Rick Scott: (12:06)
I think one thing the Biden administration really has to focus on is the risk of what all this debt is going to do to us. We’re sitting at $28 trillion worth of debt. This will increase our debt by at least $2 trillion. We’re probably in a fiscal year that we’re going to run $2 trillion deficit, where interest rates have already ticked up quite a bit since November. At 1.6%, that’s $480 billion a year, just in interest expense. We already seen gas prices go up in the last couple of months by over 50 cents a gallon. That’s a big tax on the poor. But if we start seeing higher interest rates, it’s going to push mortgage rates up, it’s going to push car payments up. And on top of that, it’s going to push inflation up, which is going to hurt the poorest families in our country.
Speaker 7: (12:49)
Leader McConnell. I know that I know no Senate Republican, as you all have made clear, support the American rescue plan. You’ve talked a lot about New York and California, but I’m wondering if you all have a sense of how it’s impacting your respective state. So how much money, for instance, is going to Kentucky. And if the same protocol exists to help constituents in accessing those services from the rescue plan in your state, even though you personally don’t support the legislation.
Mitch McConnell: (13:15)
Well, the governor of Kentucky pointed out that we didn’t have a budget crisis. He predicted one. It didn’t occur. And so, the whole point we’re trying to make here is this is wildly more expensive than the situation we find ourselves in now. Look back a year. The Cares Act was roughly $2 trillion. That was the heart of the pandemic. We had just shut down the economy. We were sending people home. And here we are a year later, the Democrats acting as if nothing has changed. And all the signs are that we’re on the way out of this, and this is vastly more expensive than should have been approved at this juncture.
Mitch McConnell: (14:06)
This debt, as Senator Scott just pointed out, has continued to pile up and pile up and pile up. Larry Summers, Bill Clinton’s secretary of the treasury, said way too much. That’s the point. We’re doing damage to the future of this country by spending dramatically more money than we obviously need at this particular point, at which time the economy is coming back, people are getting vaccine. We’re on our way out of it. We’re about to have a boom. And if we do have a boom, it will have absolutely nothing to do with this $1.9 trillion.
Speaker 8: (14:48)
[crosstalk 00:14:48] I’m curious what your thoughts are on National Guard remaining here and fencing, and also on [inaudible 00:14:54] report, if you’ve seen it, and what your thoughts are. It asks for a lot of changes, sweeping changes, and that’s going to need to be funded as well. Where do you come down on the need for that, and the [crosstalk 00:15:05]?
Mitch McConnell: (15:05)
On the need for the Guard here?
Speaker 8: (15:06)
Mitch McConnell: (15:07)
I think we’ve overdone it. There are no serious… I just checked early this morning. There have been no serious threats against the Capitol. I think we’re way overreacting to the current need. And much like the 1.9 trillion, looking back at what happened January 6th, rather than where we are now. I’m extremely uncomfortable with the fact that my constituents can’t come to the Capitol. With all this razor wire around the complex, it reminds me of my last visit to [inaudible 00:15:45]. This is the Capitol of the United States of America. Do we need some changes? We probably do. But I think we are continuing to overreact based on current threat levels to what is needed here at the Capitol. It looks terrible to have the beacon of our democracy surrounded by razor wire and National Guard troops.
Speaker 9: (16:16)
[crosstalk 00:16:16] Senator Manchin this weekend floated the idea of returning to the traditional talking filibuster, but keeping a 60 vote threshold. What’s your response to that idea? Should filibustering senators be required to be on the floor? Are you open to that?
Mitch McConnell: (16:27)
The legislative filibuster is the essence of the Senate. It’s the only legislative body in the world where a majority is not enough for most things on the legislative side. It should not be changed. Senator Manchin and Senator [inaudible 00:16:43] made it clear they do not favor changing it. And we’re counting on them to stand up for the institution. I will remind you all that the previous President harangued me on numerous occasions through his Twitter account about doing exactly this. Do you remember my response? No. I said no once, I said no twice, I said no three times, and any other time he raised it because I respected the institution more than whatever short-term advantage we might have achieved by doing it.
Mitch McConnell: (17:20)
I think when you’re having a discussion like this, you always need to remember what will happen when the other guys are in charge. How would they feel about a Republican Senate operating with 51 votes majority, deciding that we need to have a national right to work law? How would they feel about that? That is among a number of things that they would seriously object to.
Mitch McConnell: (17:46)
And finally, let me make the point that in the last Congress, the Democratic leader used the filibuster frequently to stymie things that we might’ve preferred pass. Did I say we ought to break the rules, change the system? No. Majorities come and majorities go. But the essence of the Senate is the filibuster on the legislative calendar. Change that, and you choose the Senate and America forever.
Speaker 9: (18:20)
Even if you keep the 60 vote threshold, but you require the senators to be in attendance [crosstalk 00:18:25]
Mitch McConnell: (18:25)
The status quo on this issue is exactly where we ought to be.
Speaker 9: (18:28)
[crosstalk 00:18:28] Leader McConnell.
Mitch McConnell: (18:34)
Thank you. [crosstalk 00:18:34].