Sep 21, 2021
Senate GOP Leadership Press Conference Transcript September 21
Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell, John Thune, Joni Ernst, and others held a press conference on September 21, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:02)
Well, good afternoon, everyone. The drama surrounding the continuing resolution continues. I just heard that the speaker is apparently unable to add iron dome replenishment money to the CR, and so they’re in a bit of a tangle over that. This would be a good opportunity to make clear one more time that we’re prepared to support a continuing resolution with assistance for Louisiana with additional funds to replenish iron dome. What we’re not prepared to do is to relieve the democratic president, democratic house, democratic Senate from their governing obligation to address that ceiling. They have the opportunity to do it. I want to repeat once again, America must never default. We never have and we never will. But whose obligation it is to do that changes from time to time depending upon the government the American people have elected. And right now, we have democratic president, democratic house, democratic Senate.
Mitch McConnell: (01:27)
The previous debt ceiling was negotiated on a bipartisan basis in conjunction with a caps deal. This one is not being negotiated on a bipartisan basis because obviously we’re not involved in any bipartisan discussion regarding the reckless taxing and spending legislation that they’re having apparently some challenges in putting together because of its comprehensive reach and because of its devastating impact on the American economy. The debt ceiling will be raised, as it always should be, but it will be raised by the Democrats.
John Thune: (02:18)
Senator Schumer has indicated that they’re going to be bringing another federal election takeover bill to the floor here in the near future. We’ve seen that picture before. A lot of the ideas that have been discussed are still included in this latest version of the bill. The original version of this did away with photo ID, something that’s really important in a lot of states. And they clearly, as the leader has pointed out, are having a argument now between the left and the far left about how to do the election takeover.
John Thune: (02:59)
But the one thing they all have in common, and that is a federal grab of state election laws. I will tell you, Republicans will not allow the Democrats here in the Congress and the federal government to tell people in South Dakota how to run their elections. That has historically been something, going back to the founding, that the states have administered elections in this country. It has worked remarkably well for a really long time. This is not something that requires a federal government intervention. In fact, the American people, I think, would make it abundantly clear that that is… they would become even more leery about elections in this country were they federalized here in Washington, DC.
John Thune: (03:50)
The other thing that the, in addition to the federal election takeover, the federal government also is trying to overwrite state laws when it comes to the issue of abortion. We’ve seen that a number of times, their legislation coming over from the house would preempt many of the state laws. Again, something that it appears the Democrats are intent on doing, and that is forcing Republican states to bend the knee to their radical agenda here in Washington, and that too is something that Republicans are not going to stand up for it. They don’t have the votes to pass these things. These are designed purely as a political exercise to satisfy their far left base, but Republicans are going to stand strong against all these efforts to have the federal government take over those things that historically have been left to the purview of the states and perfectly consistent with the intentions of our founders.
Speaker 3: (04:51)
Well, since 1939, the debt ceiling has been raised 98 times, so why is it any different this time? Well, it’s because of the blowout spending that the Democrats are proposing and doing it without a single Republican vote.
Speaker 3: (05:07)
Traditionally, when you have to raise the debt ceiling, you have a bipartisan discussion in ways to get spending under control. With a 50/50 Senate and such a close margin in the house, that’s exactly what ought to be happening right now. Instead, the Democrats are moving forward with an incredible spending bill based on Bernie Sanders’ socialist budget, and Republicans will not be a rubber stamp for this.
Speaker 3: (05:31)
This administration, just a couple of months ago, passed a $1.9 trillion so-called COVID relief bill; had very little to do with healthcare and was put onto the debt. Now they’re proposing over twice that amount of spending, again, solely on party lines.
Speaker 3: (05:49)
During the pandemic, we have passed five bipartisan relief bills done in a way to move the country forward in a bipartisan way. We have a large debt in this country. The interest alone on the debt is about $400 billion a year. My concerns are this is going to undermine in the long run social security and Medicare. Democrats want to pay for all of this by raising taxes on your income, on your retirement savings and even on your death. Everyone will end up paying more. If the Democrats want to go it alone on the spending, they’re going to have to go it alone on raising the debt ceiling.
Speaker 4: (06:30)
Well on that same topic, raising the debt ceiling is always controversial, and for the last 25 years or so it’s always involved a discussion of spending. Under the Obama administration, that discussion resulted in establishing caps on how much money we’d spend on the defense and non-defense parts of the budget.
Speaker 4: (06:56)
The cap steel, which many people here remember, there would have been no debt ceiling increase without the cap steel. In 2019, June of 2019, Nancy Pelosi announced to many of you that there will be no… She would not help with the debt ceiling. This is the speaker of the house, the majority in the house. We would not help raise the debt ceiling unless we increase spending. And secretary Minutian representing the administration spent weeks talking with Speaker Pelosi about how much it was going to take to increase spending above those caps to get their help in raising the debt ceiling.
Speaker 4: (07:41)
Suddenly, our friends on the other side act like this is routine. Nobody ever asked to be part of the discussion, or if you’re not part of the discussion, you shouldn’t be offended that you’re not part of the discussion. When Democrats decided in March that they were going to spend whatever amount of money they wanted to without including the other side, when they decided months into this year that they were going to spend whatever they wanted to in a reconciliation bill, without talking to the other side, they established a criteria where how do you have those discussions?
Speaker 4: (08:16)
Also, remember we’re 10 days away from the new spending year and we haven’t been able to have, from the Democrats, any decision involving us, as far as I know, not a decision involving them on how much money we’re going to spend in the fiscal year that starts in 10 days. To act like this is some kind of normal environment where you have the normal kind of give and take is just unreasonable. And when you establish that as the ground rules to work with, you can’t expect the other side to suddenly step up and say, “Oh, the one we want to be involved in, and we hope you’ll let us be involved in, is raising the debt ceiling even though you haven’t let us be involved in anything else this year.”
Joni Ernst: (09:09)
Iowans are really upset with this administration, and the Des Moines register released a poll that indicates that President Joe Biden’s disapproval is over 60% in Iowa. Why is that? Just look at Afghanistan and what a debacle that was. It was horribly handled. It was haphazard at best.
Joni Ernst: (09:36)
What else? The reckless spending that is going on across this Congress and within this administration. And then how do you pay for that reckless spending? You implement tax policy that raises taxes on hardworking Americans just like our Iowa farmers.
Joni Ernst: (09:56)
There’s some tax policy that could be included in this reconciliation package that some young Iowa ag leaders spoke with me about this morning, and they pointed out the elimination of the step-up in basis, which would impact our family farms in Iowa. Our secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, had penned an op ed, a letter to The Wall Street Journal about a week ago and said that this won’t hurt our family farmers. But the Iowa Farm Bureau President, Craig Hill, begs to differ, and he penned his own letter back to The Wall Street Journal using the USDA’s own information that showed, yes, very clearly Iowa’s farmers would be hurt by this tax policy that the Biden administration wants to implement on those that are feeding and fueling our world.
Joni Ernst: (10:49)
Folks, we need to get over this. The Democrats need to stop this reckless tax and spending. It’s an opportunity to come together. Let’s start working together. If they truly want to do that, let’s do it, but it can’t be done through this reconciliation package.
Speaker 6: (11:09)
I think most people in Florida believe the Democrats are not living in reality. If you go around Florida, what you’ve seen is gas prices are up, food prices are up, home prices are up, and used car prices are up, new cars prices are up. Inflation’s caused by reckless government spending. At a time like this, you would think the Democrats would come together and say, “We’ve got to get our house in order. We need to make sure we fixed social security, make sure we fix Medicare, make sure we stop running these big deficits.” But what are they doing? They’re doing exactly the opposite. They’re causing more and more inflation.
Speaker 6: (11:38)
If you talk to businesses around Florida, they’re all telling you inflation is not going away. There’s significant supply problems. Inflation is continuing to grow and it’s hurting the poorest families; those families on fixed income. Those families are struggling to put food on the table. As can see, wages have gone up but not as fast as inflation, so what the Democrats are doing are hurting the poorest families in our country and they’re doing nothing to fix any of these things.
Speaker 7: (12:04)
Mitch McConnell: (12:05)
Speaker 7: (12:05)
In the past half hour here, I’ve heard from multiple house and Senate Republicans saying, “Oh, the Democrats have a problem with iron dome.” You decided that it’s like, “Oh, they have to take this out.” You said you would support a plain bill if it had iron dome and without the debt ceiling. Aren’t Republicans, though, trying to have it two ways here by saying, “Oh no, no, we want an iron dome in that bill upon the government life the debt ceiling,” but then saying, “Oh, they had to take it out”? It sounds like that’s riding two sides of the fence there on iron dome.
Mitch McConnell: (12:34)
I don’t think so. I’m basically just reporting that I think Senate Republicans would be perfectly happy with adding the iron dome to the CR, and I was just describing they seemed to have some difficulty in the house figuring out whether it’s in or whether it’s out. It seems that the latest information was it was out because Progressives in the house objected to it.
Speaker 9: (13:01)
[inaudible 00:13:01] You voted last month for the infrastructure bill that added $256 billion to the deficit, according to CVL, so are you also responsible for raising the deficit and debt in the Biden administration?
Mitch McConnell: (13:14)
Well, a number of people involved in the bipartisan negotiation on the infrastructure bill actually felt that it was paid for. Without getting into that argument, I have said from the beginning of the year that if the democratic government, president, house and Senate wants to look for ways where we might be able to reach a bipartisan agreement, infrastructure is a good example. But look, even if it adds slightly to the national debt, it pales in comparison to what we’re talking about here in massive, massive inquiries in taxing and spending.
Mitch McConnell: (13:54)
My guess is some of the brave Democrats will probably carve back the taxing side and you’ll end up having even more added to the debt. It will be interesting to see what [inaudible 00:14:06] are able to achieve or what house moderates were able to achieve. But I never felt we should do nothing with the democratic administration, particularly in an area that enjoys a lot of Republican support, and that’s infrastructure.
Speaker 10: (14:21)
[inaudible 00:14:21] The Wall Street Journal reported a couple days ago that President Trump is calling around to find a new Senate Republican leader. Does that have any impact on your decision making about whether to run for the majority or minority leader again in 2023?
Mitch McConnell: (14:36)
I don’t have any reaction to that.