Dec 15, 2020

Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript December 15: COVID Relief

Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript December 15
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsMitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript December 15: COVID Relief

Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans held a press conference on December 15 to discuss coronavirus relief negotiations. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.

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Mitch McConnell: (00:09)
Well, there’s a genuine feeling of excitement throughout the country over the delivery of that vaccine. Just to give you a sense of how that’s working in my state, the largest concentration of UPS employees in the country is in Louisville, Kentucky, my hometown. I wish the corporate headquarters was there, it’s in Atlanta. But nevertheless, packages are being routed through Louisville to go all over the world. And it is one of the key locations that are delivering vaccine all over the country over the last 24 hours.

Mitch McConnell: (00:47)
The first shots have been administered. Hope is on the way. And our job here is to guarantee that there’s enough money to facilitate the delivery as well as to do other things that we can agree on. And as I’ve said repeatedly, number one, we’re not leaving here without a COVID package. It’s not going to happen. We’re going to stay here until we get a COVID package. No matter how long it takes, we’ll be here until we got a COVID package.

Mitch McConnell: (01:24)
Number two, the way forward, obviously is to put aside the two things that are the most contentious on each side, liability protection and state and local. We all know the new administration is going to be asking for another package. We can live to fight another day on what we disagree on, but we ought to agree to go forward on what we can agree on. That is the way forward. No lesser figure than the number two Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Mitch McConnell: (02:00)
The majority leader said on Sunday on one of the talk shows that it made sense to set aside the two things that were the most contentious and agree on all the rest. So it is still my hope we’re going to get an omnibus appropriation and it will have a touch to it when it comes over from the House, an agreement that we’ve been able to reach with the four corners and Secretary Mnuchin and the president.

Speaker 2: (02:29)
Well, it is great news the vaccine coming out in record time, five times faster than any vaccine literally in history. And in my state of South Dakota yesterday, frontline workers were getting vaccinated, which is a great story for South Dakota, it’s a great story for every state in the country. And it’s a great credit to the scientists, the trial volunteers, the companies themselves working with the Senate and the House and the White House to make this happen in record time.

Speaker 2: (03:00)
A truly remarkable achievement and one that hopefully will start to deliver meaningful relief to the American people. There are a few things left for us to do obviously with the vaccine out there. We have resources available in legislation that we’re considering to help distribute that vaccine in a quick and efficient way. That needs to be addressed in a COVID package. As the leader pointed out, the list of issues has narrowed significantly and there is bipartisan buy-in and support for a proposal that does a few of the basic things we all agree on.

Speaker 2: (03:35)
It helps our hardest hit small businesses. It provides unemployment insurance to people who are unemployed. Provides money for vaccine distribution, money for schools. Those are all elements of legislation that we’ve been talking about, frankly, the legislation that we’ve voted on now a couple of times in the Senate and had a majority of senators vote in favor of. And that’s where I hope this will land and whether or not it lands there really is up to at this point, Speaker Pelosi and Democrat leader Schumer here in the Senate.

Speaker 2: (04:04)
The bipartisan group has come to that conclusion. They’ve jettisoned as the leader pointed out the most controversial elements of that proposal, which is funding for state and local governments and liability protections. So those two things are if they’re not on the table, what you’re left with are the things that I just mentioned, which enjoy broad bi-partisan support. And which should make this really a pretty easy negotiation, but it does require the leadership on the Democrat side to agree with the bipartisan group of senators, including Senator Durbin who’ve been working on this for some time.

Speaker 2: (04:39)
I think we all need to get this done. I think the American people deserve to have action by the Congress to address in a targeted, fiscally responsible way the most critical needs that are out there as a result of the pandemic. And we’re in a position to do something about that and to do it this week. We have a spending bill that’s going to be coming over and it’s a perfect place for the COVID relief bill to ride, to get this all done at one time.

Speaker 2: (05:04)
And I certainly hope on behalf of the people in this country that the Democrat leadership here in the Congress, Senate and House will get together with our Republican leadership and finish a job, frankly, that should have been done a long time ago. But frankly, if it gets done now will be great news for the American people.

Speaker 3: (05:30)
Well, people all across this country are receiving today the shot against coronavirus. The vaccine has arrived and I will tell you from the point of being a Christmas gift to the American people, you could hope for no better through the year 2020. It truly is remarkable. Three million doses sent out yesterday, 636 locations, five spots in Wyoming. It is working and it is a front page story in every newspaper in America. You open a newspaper and you see someone getting the shot, the vaccine for coronavirus.

Speaker 3: (06:05)
It is also a sign of incredible American ingenuity. The efforts made by scientists, by companies, by researchers to get this developed and then distributed all across America. I’ve talked to healthcare providers in Wyoming across the country this weekend, there was a huge sigh of relief as they look forward to receiving the shot, the medicine because it will provide relief for them. The doctors, the nurses, the therapists as well as the most vulnerable. When I think of this as being a doctrine in terms of how important is this? What kind of a breakthrough is it? It is similar to insulin, to penicillin, and certainly is safe and effective as the polio vaccine.

Speaker 3: (06:49)
It is exactly what we need to get America back on track in terms of our economy, in terms of kids back to school and putting the disease behind us. So what have the Democrats have been doing? They have continued to block us every step along the line. And just in the last couple of weeks, both Speaker Pelosi and Senator Durbin have admitted that they’ve held up relief for political purposes. They’ve held up coronavirus relief for political purposes because of the election and allowed the American people to continue in isolation, and suffering and hardships because they had a political agenda.

Speaker 3: (07:27)
They have blocked our efforts as Republicans 40 different times. It is time for the political games to be over. We need a solution. The American people are depending upon all of us. From a standpoint of good news, you may have seen some of the polls that show more people as they learn more about the vaccine are much more willing to get the vaccine. And I saw that former presidents Clinton, and Obama and Bush have also that they would get the vaccine and do it publicly to show that it is safe and that they trust the entire vaccine. And to that as a doctor I would say, sign me up as well.

Speaker 4: (08:06)
Well, on the recovery from the pandemic front, which obviously is going to take some time now before we get there. But the National Institutes of Health today announced the first home test to come through the shark tank process, be producing about a 100,000 of those a day in January, 250,000 a day by the end of February. Tests could be taken at home. I think over 800 applications of various kinds on testing were made at NIH to become partners in the shark tank. About two dozen of those have now been in production. Many of them were point-of-service tests that have been happening at campuses and other places. This is the first at-home.

Speaker 4: (08:56)
And so if people work to be sure they continue to be safe while they or others in their house are waiting for the vaccine, that’ll be important. And on the vaccine front, not only did another good report today from Moderna as we go toward hopefully the approval of that later this week. But I was in a conference call last week with the people running that program, they were saying 20 million people will have their vaccines done by the end of December, 100 million by the end of March.

Speaker 4: (09:29)
And I asked specifically the question, “Do you mean a 100 people will have had both shots they need, a 100 million by the end of March? And the answer was yes, that many people will be through this process, should be able to fully engage in society at least safely for them and others they’re with. And on Friday, the government just bought another 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine that again hopefully will be approved this week and will be added to the 100 million that we had previously contracted for.

Joni Ernst: (10:05)
So over the weekend we had a football game. I don’t know if you caught that Todd, but the United States Military Academy did defeat the United States Naval Academy, 15 to zero, total shutout at Michie Stadium. So again, we, we want to thank not only the cadets and midshipmen, but all of those that step forward to wear our nation’s uniform. So not only is the Army a winner, but also the American people right now as we see the distribution of vaccinations across our great United States.

Joni Ernst: (10:39)
And this is a tremendous success thus far with Operation Warp Speed. And I really want to give those that have been in charge of this program, all of those that have put the research and development into it, those that are working on the logistical side to make sure our States are receiving the vaccines. I want to say thank you to all of them, for their great efforts to make sure that we’re protecting the American people.

Joni Ernst: (11:04)
So we are very concerned about that. Iowa is excited about their receipt of the vaccinations. They will go ahead and distribute those to, of course, those hospital and healthcare workers and those that are most vulnerable. They will start receiving those. But beyond that, beyond Operation Warp Speed, as a number of my colleagues had mentioned, we need COVID relief. Okay? So not only do we need to fund the vaccinations and the process of distribution, we also need to make sure that we are supporting our American businesses, industry, our individuals, our healthcare systems. I could go on all day.

Joni Ernst: (11:45)
And again, we don’t want this to be political at this point, we just need relief. Iowa restaurants are wondering, “Are we going to here? Are we going to be here in another week or so? Relief is needed.” So I am encouraging again everyone to come together. Let’s wrap this up. We need to get it done by the end of the year and make sure that everyone sees the relief that’s necessary to support our economy.

Speaker 6: (12:17)
Joni, I want to congratulate you and all the Army fans out there and better luck next year for those of us who are backers of Navy. But I’ll take Joni’s pre-game position, which is the American people win every time we play. It’s a win for the American people. It’s really not about who wins and loses. Thank you for recognizing that last week.

Speaker 6: (12:44)
Clearly a win for the American people has been this rapid development and approval of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. Something to be celebrated. It’s really a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the American people that we’re able to get this developed and approved in such rapid fashion. And also a testament to Operation Warp Speed. This would not have happened but for Operation Warp Speed. We’re now at a point where just yesterday, there was vaccine delivered to a hospital in Indiana so that our high-risk healthcare, hard-working personnel on the front lines would have access to this groundbreaking, game-changing vaccine.

Speaker 6: (13:30)
And in the coming week, we’re going to see this vaccine distributed to 50 additional hospitals around the state of Indiana so that our healthcare workers can be protected as we continue to do everything we can to control the symptoms of and to contain this deadly virus. The ball is sort of in our court now in Congress. The researchers have done their work. So many of the American people, our essential workers are doing their part. Now it’s time for Congress to do its part and pass this end of year coronavirus relief package so that we can make sure we get vaccine out to more Americans as we head into next year and provide additional economic relief as so many Americans continue to suffer.

Speaker 6: (14:21)
We really need to put politics aside. It seems like we’re getting very close to doing that and coming to terms on some difficult issues. And I’m very pleased about that. The Electoral College submitted its vote. And I also think as we look into next year, it’s very important that each of us pledges to work with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to ensure that we keep the American people safe and secure so that get through this coronavirus period. And we emerged very strongly on the back end of it.

Mitch McConnell: (14:59)
Yeah, let me add one additional thought on the vaccine. As a polio survivor myself, unfortunately, the vaccine had not yet been developed. I’m a huge supporter of being vaccinated when you have a substance that you know works. And so whenever my turn comes, I’m going to be anxious to take the vaccine and to reassure I do my part to reassure those who are doubtful about this that we really need to get the country vaccinated.

Mitch McConnell: (15:37)
When you have about half of the population either skeptical or saying they won’t do it, that’s not good news. So I think all of us who do have at least some following in the country need to step up as the former presidents are. And as I’m sure people in the entertainment world will as well to encourage people to do this. It’s the right thing to do for yourself, for your family and for the country.

Speaker 7: (16:03)
I have a question about the vaccine money in the COVID relief plan. Many States including your own say they actually needed that vaccine money months ago so they could plan. How much longer are they going to have to wait?

Mitch McConnell: (16:16)
Well, we tried in September. I would remind you. We tried in October. We’ve been trying for months. We shouldn’t have been put in this position. We should have done this a long time ago. I’ve been saying it for weeks and you’ve been listening to me saying for weeks, let’s put aside the things we can agree on and do the things we can. That’s just another good argument to get it done, to get it done now. And we’re not leaving. I assure you we’re not leaving until we finish this package. Manute?

Manute: (16:49)
Your speech this morning, you gave a speech this morning about Joe Biden congratulating him for winning. What can you now mention was President Trump’s claims in this election was rigged, it was stolen and the like. Do you have any concerns at all about what the president has been saying and should he accept the results?

Mitch McConnell: (17:10)
Look, I don’t have any advice to give the president on the subject. I said this morning for me and I think on the basis of the way that the system works, the decision by the Electoral College yesterday was determinative.

Speaker 9: (17:29)
Mr. Leader, thank you. President-elect, former Vice President Biden said this morning that you two spoke on the phone. Do you think he deserves to have key members of his cabinet in place on day one on January 20th like you did, for example, with James Madison?

Mitch McConnell: (17:44)
Well look, our first job here is to try to finish up this session with this administration. And we’ll have plenty of time to talk about the way forward. My concentration right now is on the subjects that we’ve been talking about. Finishing up our work and President Trump is going to be there until January the 20th. We need to continue to work with him. The future will take care of itself. Yeah?

Speaker 10: (18:09)
If you could give your thoughts going into this meeting this afternoon. Is it your view that there basically is no deal available with States local money and just needs to be dropped completely? Is that your [inaudible 00:18:23]

Mitch McConnell: (18:23)
Well, we’re not negotiating the deal in here, but it’s pretty obvious the way to get a deal for weeks has been as exactly what I said, what Steny Hoyer suggested and what the bipartisan group has suggested is to drop the two most contentious items for the moment. We all know the new administration is going to be asking for yet another package. It’s not like we won’t have another opportunity to debate the merits of liability reform and of state and local government in the very near future. Thank you.

Speaker 11: (19:10)
Senator McConnell.