Dec 1, 2020
Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript December 1: Coronavirus Relief
Mitch McConnell and Senate GOP members held a press conference on December 1 to discuss coronavirus relief negotiations. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.
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Senator Mitch McConnell: (00:02)
To reflect our concern about it being extra safe and conducting what we believe is essential work for the American people. The subject of additional coronavirus relief is on the minds of lots of our members. You’ve already spoken to probably Senator Collins, Senator Romney and others who’ve been meeting with Democrats about a possible way forward. We received a proposal through a letter from Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer last night. Let me tell you where I think we are. Leader McCarthy and I have been in discussions with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President’s Chief of Staff to try to ascertain what the President would actually sign into law. And I think we have a sense of what that is. I laid that out in the call that we had just a little while ago. We’re going to send that out to all the offices and get some feedback to see how our members react to a proposal that we can say for sure would be signed into law.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (01:21)
I think the one thing we all agree on is that we don’t have time for messaging games. We don’t have time for LinkedIn negotiations. The issue is, do we want to get a result? And I like to remind everybody that the way you get a result, is you have to have a Presidential signature. So I felt the first thing we needed to do was to find out what the President would, in fact, sign. We believe we’ve got the answer to that. We’re vetting that on our side and then we’ll let you know later whether we think there’s any way forward, but certainly we know we can say, I hope that this is something that would be signed into law by the President, be done quickly, deal with the things that we can agree on now. And I think we all know that after the first of the year, there’s likely to be a discussion about some additional package of some size next year, depending upon what the new administration wants to pursue.
Speaker 2: (02:31)
Between now and the end of the year, we have to wrap up a lot of the unfinished business of this Congress. And so we’ve got a number of nominees to important agencies and judgeships that we will need to be acting on and filling. We’ve got to fund the government, obviously. And of course we have to pass a Defense Authorization Bill as well. All of which we will have to try and get done, hopefully the next week or two, depending on how much cooperation we have. As the Leader pointed out, the issue of coronavirus relief is also a subject of discussion. And I think in terms of any of these year-end negotiations could be, if there is an agreement, wrapped up and considered as part of a spending bill or perhaps a separately, but in any case, it would have to get a Presidential signature, it’d have to get 60 votes in the Senate and obviously majority in the House of Representatives.
Speaker 2: (03:26)
And so the question is, what does that look like? And will there be enough movement among Democrats to enable us to get an agreement? And I think what we’ve seen of course so far, we have now not once, but twice, passed, or I shouldn’t say passed, but gotten 52 Republican votes in the Senate, a majority, if you could pass it at a majority in the Senate, for a bill that provides funding for vaccines, it provides funding for schools, provides additional assistance for unemployment insurance and also replenishes the PPP program, which helps a lot of our small businesses who are struggling and the workers who work there.
Speaker 2: (04:05)
Those are all things that the Democrats say that they agree upon, but they have insisted, at least up until now, on a bloated messaging bill on the order of a couple, two and a half trillion dollars or thereabouts, which is something that obviously would not pass in the Senate and get signed into law by the President. So the question is, what can we get through the House, 60 votes in the Senate, and a Presidential signature on. And I would hope that in the course of the next couple of weeks, as we are debating the year end issues, that we can get some agreement on something that fits those basic parameters. Like I said, we had all but one Republican who have now voted not once, but twice, for a bill that addresses those critical needs and things that I think both sides agree need to be addressed, but it will require a level of cooperation and compromise from the Democrats that we have not seen or witnessed yet in order to get that done.
Speaker 2: (05:00)
But I’m hopeful. I think the American people need help. They need relief. Our small businesses need help. Our frontline workers need help. Our schools need help. And obviously we want to make sure that we’re investing everything we can in the vaccines and the therapies that will help us defeat this virus. So those are areas of agreement, a bi-partisan agreement. The question now is whether or not Democrats are going to come to the table in a meaningful way and help us get something across the finish line.
Speaker 3: (05:34)
Nancy Pelosi has been stubbornly dug in since she passed her bloated messaging bill about six and a half months ago, stubbornly dug in against doing a coronavirus relief bill in a cooperative way. As a matter of fact, right before the elections, she said that she would not budge. She’s been dead set for using the pandemic as a way to push a far left agenda because she was going to use this and pick up 15 to 20 seats for Democrats in the House. Well, what happened? As a result of her actions, Republicans picked up over 10 Republican seats in the House of Representatives. Why? Because the Democrats refuse to deal and address the number one issue which is on the minds of the American voters, which was relief for coronavirus and dealing with the disease.
Speaker 3: (06:29)
So now here we are at a point where we have an increased number of cases around the country and around the world. And you say, so what is the House of Representatives doing this week? So I looked into it. Well, they have a bill that is going to be taken up in the rules committee tomorrow. It’s called the MORE Act. I didn’t know what exactly that stood for, so I looked into it, researched it. This is Pelosi’s priority, marijuana opportunity re-investment act. Now, I don’t know exactly what’s in that bill, but that is the priority of the House right now. I don’t know if it has to do with decriminalization, legalization of marijuana, making it easier for our kids to get marijuana in our neighborhoods, whatever it is, that is today’s priority of the incredibly shrinking Nancy Pelosi run House of Representatives.
Speaker 3: (07:22)
That’s not what the American people are talking about. That’s not what I heard about in Wyoming this weekend. All I heard about is all the good news about the vaccine. People looking forward to having that available to them. Well, the Republican relief bill has money for distribution of the vaccine. The Pelosi Schumer approach, well they really do shortcut the vaccine. The Republican bill has money for paycheck protection, the Senate bill that we’re working on. That’s what small businesses are asking for and the workers are asking for. It has money to help kids get back to school safely so they don’t fall further behind. This is the path forward for our country. The Republican bill is sizable. It is significant, and it is the path that the American people want to follow.
Speaker 4: (08:08)
Senator Roy Blunt: (08:08)
I think, also safe to say, that today Senator Shelby said we were making real progress on the omnibus spending bill. I know on the part of the Labor H Education Bill, I think we’re down to only discussing report language, with the full committee help we’re going to close that out. The four members House and Senate have worked through that bill over the last couple of weeks now and I think we’re getting to a good place there. I hope we are with the rest of the bill.
Senator Roy Blunt: (08:42)
The other topic I wanted to talk about today was the arm sale, the F-35 sale to the UAE. It appears sometime this month there’ll be a congressional vote on that issue. My personal view is it would be a big mistake not to move forward with that arm sale. Israel is supportive. I think it may be the only thing that Netanyahu and Gantz have agreed on since they formed their coalition government, that this sale should go forward. They say that understanding that there would be a qualitative difference between the UAE F-35 and the Israel F 35, and then another difference between what we have. But for 20 years now, three different administrations, we have increasingly worked closely with the UAE on defense issues, on the ground together, in the air together, in at least six different extended deployments the UAE has been there.
Senator Roy Blunt: (09:42)
Clearly the Abraham Accords, what’s happened with Bahrain following, and I think others to follow that, will be impacted by whether we continue to have the kind of cooperation on defense issues that we’ve had with the UAE, again, for three different administrations. That will come up, it will not successfully be stopped by the Congress I don’t believe, but it’s a debate that we ought to be thinking about. I certainly think we should continue with that arm sale.
Senator Joni Ernst: (10:14)
First, I want to welcome back my Senior Senator Chuck Grassley to the United States Senate and our work schedule. Whether Chuck is working from his Iowa farm, whether he’s working from his office here in the United States Senate, or whether he’s teleworking because of the virus, Chuck Grassley works, he is always working. Many of you have probably heard the Chuck Norris jokes out there. You know, the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris. Well, we have our own Chuck Grassley jokes too. And right now the COVID is afraid of Chuck Grassley. So we are just very thankful to have him back and in good health and continually working for Iowans. He is just such a tremendous asset to our great state of Iowa and we wish him continued health.
Senator Joni Ernst: (11:02)
As we are approaching the end of our congressional session, we do have a number of things that need to be done. And I just want to address two of those that some of my colleagues have already mentioned. One is making sure that we have a coronavirus bill that is done. Just earlier today, our Governor of the great state of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, did state that Congress needs to come together and get a bill done. We have people across the state of Iowa and across this nation that are hurting. We want to keep a strong economy. We want to keep our citizens safe and healthy.
Senator Joni Ernst: (11:39)
And then finally, we do have the National Defense Authorization Act that is hanging in the balance. We need to work together to ensure that we get this completed. We have done this for many decades now in a bipartisan fashion, we need to do it again. It includes a lot of provisions that are very good for our service men and women, things as simple as body armor for females, body armor that conforms to the size and shape of a female, so simple. Well that’s included in this National Defense Authorization Act. So it is vitally important that we are putting our service members, their safety first and getting that over the finish line. So I’m just encouraging our Democrats, come back to the table, let’s work through these issues. Let’s get the NDAA done and let’s get this coronavirus bill done. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (12:35)
Well I welcome everyone back. I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. It’s, of course, December 1st and we still don’t have a coronavirus relief package that has been passed, signed into law by the President and is providing relief to the American people. Look, people are hurting. They’re beyond frustrated with this whole exercise. Republicans have put forward a package that, as the leader has emphasized, can actually be signed into law. One that provides assistance to schools and students, one that provides assistance to our hard hits small businesses, one that provides additional resources for testing. So why don’t we go ahead and pass what we can all agree upon, what we know can be signed into law? And then we can debate and negotiate and give further consideration to additional measures.
Speaker 7: (13:25)
As it relates to small businesses, I’ll tell you, [inaudible 00:13:28] your small businesses have been absolutely hammered, as have so many others around the country. A recent NFIB survey indicated that nationally, 75% of their members would either consider or would go ahead and apply for a second round of PPP assistance, the sort of assistance that is included in the Senate package. So whether it’s PPP assistance or inclusion of the Restart Act, the legislation, bicameral, bipartisan, that I put together with Senator Bennet of Colorado, it now has incidentally 58 co-sponsors with the addition of Senator Perdue of Georgia here in the US Senate, 180 in the House of Representatives, again, bipartisan.
Speaker 7: (14:16)
So I’m going to continue to push on this small business front and on the other fronts I mentioned to provide the much needed relief to the American people. Unfortunately it seems the House has focused on other priorities. We just heard that they’re focused on something pertaining to marijuana and giving more consideration to marijuana policy before years end. That can be debated, but the far left needs to sort of cool their jets right now, as we deal with the serious business and the plaintive requests of our constituents around the country.
Speaker 8: (14:54)
[inaudible 00:14:54] On COVID relief, you alluded to the bipartisan framework that came out today. Have you had a chance to look at that? And since you’re talking about the importance of the President signing something, the House would have to pass something too. So why wouldn’t a bi-artisan proposal that could potentially also pass in that body be a better way to go?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (15:17)
Yeah, we just don’t have time to waste time. We have a couple of weeks left here. Obviously it does require bipartisan support to get out of the Congress, but it requires a Presidential signature and this government is in place for sure for the next month. And I think the place to start is, are we actually making a law or are we just making a point? And I think the way you make a law for sure is you’ve got a Presidential signature. So we’ll see how it goes forward. I think the one thing we all agree on, as I said, waiting till next year is not an answer. We need a targeted relief bill, including things that we can agree on.
Speaker 9: (16:07)
House Majority Leader has said that House Democrats are likely to bring you back ear marks next year. Some of your Senate Republican colleagues say that with Biden [inaudible 00:16:16] control of the administration, Republicans should consider bringing back in March here in the Senate. Do you have an opinion about that?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (16:22)
Take your mask down and say that again. [inaudible 00:16:24].
Speaker 9: (16:26)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says House Democrats are bringing back ear marks next year?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (16:31)
Yeah, I haven’t given any real thought to that. I did hear that Hoyer said that, that’s a decision obviously the majority has decided to make over there. And it’ll be interesting to see how the Republicans in the House respond to it.
Speaker 10: (16:44)
Answer the timing for a COVID relief bill, does it need to ride on the government funding bill. What should we expect kind of on a horizon when it needs to come out, when it needs to come to fruition?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (16:55)
Well, first we were working really hard to finish up the omnibus bill, as Senator Blunt pointed out. Obviously, given the challenges of moving things across the Senate floor speedily, that would be a vehicle to add on whatever coronavirus relief bill we know will get a Presidential signature. And obviously as was discussed earlier, it’ll have to have democratic votes to get through the House. But I think it will all likely come in one package. [inaudible 00:00:17:31].
Speaker 11: (17:30)
[inaudible 00:17:30] over the years about the electoral process, integrity in the election. Why have you not spoken out and why have you been quiet amid the President’s claims of the election’s been rigged and it’s been stolen from him?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (17:44)
As I’ve said repeatedly, we have this government for the next three weeks, for sure. And what I’m focusing on is trying to accomplish as much as we can during this three week period, which requires dealing with the government that we have right now. The future will take care of itself. As I’ve said repeatedly, we’re going to go through these processes. That electoral college is going to meet December the 14th. There’ll be an inauguration January 20th.
Speaker 12: (18:13)
You keep saying that the President, you want a bill that would pass COVID relief that would have the President’s signature. But he’s been far apart from Senate Republicans. He’s been willing to go as high as 1.8 trillion. Are you coming up on your number? And is there anything from the compromise package that you saw today, which included state and [crosstalk 00:18:31].
Senator Mitch McConnell: (18:32)
Yeah, well, what I’m doing, maybe I wasn’t very clear about, what I’m doing is talking to Secretary Mnuchin, who’s been deputized by the President to indicate what he’s willing to sign. And Leader McCarthy and I went over with Meadows and Mnuchin this morning, for sure what we know will get a Presidential signature. That’s where we began the discussion at lunch today. I’m sending that proposal to all offices. It’s probably been done by now. We’re going to get feedback about how our members feel about it, and then determine the way forward.
Speaker 13: (19:08)
Senator McConnell, is the, Judy Shaw, that nomination dead or do you think you will be able to try and reconsider that before [crosstalk 00:19:15].
Senator Mitch McConnell: (19:16)
Well, as you may recall, I changed my vote and made a motion to reconsider, so we can reconsider it in the future. Thanks a lot, everybody.
Speaker 14: (19:26)