Jul 27, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Unveils GOP Stimulus Proposal Transcript July 27

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Unveils GOP Stimulus Proposal Transcript July 27
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Unveils GOP Stimulus Proposal Transcript July 27

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican lawmakers held a press conference today to unveil their $1 trillion stimulus proposal. Read the transcript here.

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Senator McConnell: (00:08)
Good afternoon, everyone. When the Senate last acted with regard to COVID-19 back in March and April, we had at that point added about $3 trillion to the national debt. We then, of course, ended up with a debt the size of our economy for the first time since World War II, which is in and of itself concerning. So I said… I thought we needed to push the pause button, begin to see the impact of the CARES Act and related acts that passed during that period, see how we did when the economy began to reopen, and take another look at what the country needed in July. We’ve been… We, meaning senate Republicans and the administration, have been consulting over the last few weeks to come up with a realistic proposal, with what we think is an appropriate amount of additional debt to be added to the economy at this time.

Senator McConnell: (01:18)
We think it is about a trillion dollars, and we’ve allocated that in a way that we think makes the most sense for the country at this particular time. It will include liability insurance, which Senator… Liability protections, which Senator Cornyn is going to describe here shortly. But let me just make it clear there won’t be a bill that passes the Senate that doesn’t have this in it. They’ve already been 3,500 lawsuits filed, the country cannot stand an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of the pandemic we’re already working our way through. So with that, I’m going to call my colleagues who have developed the various component parts of our proposal, and I’m not certain who comes second. Do we know who’s next?

Speaker 1: (02:26)
Richard Shelby.

Speaker 2: (02:26)
Senator Shelby.

Speaker 3: (02:26)
Richard [inaudible 00:02:25].

Senator McConnell: (02:27)
Bob, who’s second?

Bob: (02:28)
Chairman Grassley.

Senator McConnell: (02:30)
Senator Grassley.

Senator Grassley: (02:36)
Number one, we’re going to continue the Economic Impact Payments that were made in April and May. That means that the average family of four will get another payment of $3,400. It includes just a few people that were unintentionally left out of the last one, mostly dependents, college, and adults that are somebody else’s dependent. We extend additional unemployment insurance. And remember that’s on top of whatever the different 50 states give, and on top of the economic impact statement I just gave. So we want to continue to help the unemployed, but we want to encourage work. And we’ve learned a very tough lesson that when you pay people not to work, what do you expect? And so, this payment will be adjusted so that we have additional payments to help people for approximately 70 to 75% of their income. That’s not me. I don’t think so. Well, it sounds just like mine.

Chairman Shelby.: (04:07)
You sound like my wife. [inaudible 00:04:08] to.

Senator Grassley: (04:11)
We’re going to have further tax relief for businesses to encourage hiring and rehiring. And we want to do that to encourage people to get back to work and help the employer, in the process support people in the meantime, support patients in nursing homes, and also foster youth flexibility, and how state and local governments can use federal relief funds, including an ability to use funds to cover revenue shortfall. And if… Somebody doesn’t want me to get on television tonight, I know that.

Speaker 4: (04:51)
[crosstalk 00:04:52].

Senator Grassley: (04:51)
You got to be kidding. Why didn’t you tell me that?

Speaker 5: (04:58)
[inaudible 00:04:58] call you [inaudible 00:05:03].

Senator Grassley: (05:03)
I’m embarrassed, I’m sorry. Lastly, I hope that Democrats will come to the table and we work out a bipartisan agreement. Thank you very much.

Bob: (05:14)
Chairman Shelby.

Chairman Shelby.: (05:17)
Well, we all know this is round one. We believe that as the leader said, as Senator Grassley and others will say, this is for the American people to help get them back to work, keep them at work, get them back to school, keep them in school, as safely as we can. We’ve already put out a lot of money, these are extraordinary times. I know the House has a bigger figure than this, and this is something we’re going to have to work through. Overall, we think this is a pretty good package, and I hope that the Senate in a bipartisan way, will move forward with it.

Bob: (05:57)
Chairman Alexander.

Chairman Alexander: (06:02)
Thank you. Most of the things in our bill have meaning when added to Senator Blunt’s Appropriations Bill, so I’ll just speak about three, student loans, school choice, and childcare. In March, Congress agreed that the 43 million Americans who have a student loan would not have to pay a monthly payment until October the first. The payment would be deferred, you’d still own it, but it’d be deferred. October 1 is just around the corner so what we propose is, if you have no income, you have no monthly payment. If you do have income, then we’ll change the student loan payment system, so that you never have to pay more than 10% of your income after you’ve deducted necessities of life like mortgage and food. Second on school choice, there are about 135,000 public and private schools in the country, 35,000 private schools, 100,000 public. About 50 million children in the public schools, 5.7 in the private schools.

Chairman Alexander: (07:15)
Generally speaking, we think every child is equally important, and so what we propose is about $70 billion for kindergarten through the 12th grade, and 30 more billion dollars for colleges. That amount of money for education is about the same as the House passed bill, so there could be an area of agreement. As Senator Blunt will say, we believe that every school should get some money, would be about $1,200 per person on K-12. Every school should get a third of that, even if they’re opening virtually. And the rest of that money should go to schools that are making an effort to open as much as possible with students physically present. There are many more expenses when you’re physically present, messes, more teachers, more space, more protective equipment, we believe we ought to pay for that.

Chairman Alexander: (08:18)
On school choice, Senator Scott has a bill which he will discuss, and I’m a cosponsor of that, which would give parents more choices of all schools, and childcare centers having a hard time staying open because they have less revenue, fewer students, and there need to be more safe environments for childcare. And finally, we’re spending a lot of money to build up manufacturing plants. We want to make sure that in the future, they’re not in China when we need to create vaccines. And in the future, we want to make sure we have plenty of masks and other equipment in our stockpiles, so we authorized that as well. This is a bill about, back to school, back to childcare, and back to work.

Bob: (09:06)
Chairman Collins.

Chairman Collins: (09:14)
The Paycheck Protection Program has been a lifeline to more than 5 million small businesses and their employees nationwide. In the State of Maine, nearly three quarters of all small businesses have received these forgivable loans, that have sustained the jobs of 240,000 Mainers, and brought more than $2.2 billion to the State of Maine. We are today proposing a second round of PPP loans for the hardest hit small businesses. Just this morning I was talking to an innkeeper in Maine, who told me that at this time of year, usually his inn would be booked solid, every single night, instead, business is down by 93%. So, what we are proposing is that hardest hit small businesses, those with revenue losses of 50% or more compared to last year, would be able to receive a second PPP loan to sustain their employees, and to help cover certain overhead expenses.

Chairman Collins: (10:44)
Another important provision allows PPP overhead expenses to be used for renovations that are necessary to comply with CDC guidelines, personal protective equipment, such as masks or gloves, and other renovations that may be needed to ensure the safety of both the employer’s employees, and customers. That will be particularly helpful to restaurants, for example, that are still under strict restrictions. There is also a long-term loan component of the bill that we’ve introduced, and Senator Rubio is going to explain that when he gets here. I don’t think he’s here yet. But, arguably, this program has been one of the most successful provisions of the CARES Act. And I’m delighted that we are introducing an extension of it today. Thank you.

Bob: (11:55)
Chairman [inaudible 00:11:55].

Speaker 6: (11:59)
Well… One, thanks Mitch for putting this together. Last time we didn’t do much about China, this time we are. So, what have we learned? 90% of the protective equipment that our doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals need to keep us safe and keep their families safe, is made in China. So, President Trump is hell bent on trying to bring the medical supply chain back, there’s a big step forward in this bill. We have $7.5 billion tax credit to incentivize PPE material to be made in the United States, gloves, masks, gowns, sanitizers, bedding, $7.5 billion tax credit modeled off to the energy tax credit. We think that’ll have a big effect on bring the supply chain back. Under the Berry Amendment, there’s a requirement that American military uniforms be made in America. We’re going to put PPE under that, so the national stockpile will have protective equipment made in American and we don’t have to depend on China.

Speaker 6: (12:54)
Senator Cornyn has, CHIPS for America. We lost the semiconductor industry, all left, now we’re trying to bring it back. Taiwan made a big investment in Texas. We’re going to give tax credits to make semiconductors here, which helps you in another way. Senator Portman has got a bill that I think is much needed, to punish people who steal intellectual property in America, to create a security council around research and development and penalties for those bad actors who try to steal their way to success. And finally, Senator Murkowski, who lives in Alaska, there are a lot of precious, critical metals and materials that America has but we do a very poor job of getting it out of the ground in environmentally sound way, and we’re becoming more and more dependent on China and other places in the world for critical minerals, and we’ve got a plan to become more American made and owned there.

Bob: (13:45)
Chairman [inaudible 00:13:46].

Speaker 7: (13:49)
I think about 25% of the bills in the [Labor, Age, Education subcommittee 00:00:13:52], about $250 billion, none of that money that’s there was there without the input from Chairman Shelby and chairman Alexander who chairs the Authorizing Committee, obviously Chairman Shelby chairs the full committee. On the education front, I think that’s probably been talked about enough, you’ll have some questions on that later. On the higher education part, the 30 billion or so that goes to higher education, that money will go out on an FTE basis to colleges and universities, and will go out quickly, we hope. And many of them are going to reopen as early as the 10th of August or so, so we need to get that money out of the higher… The elementary and secondary money, the two thirds is being held back for people who are trying to get in-person education reinstated again. A lot of that money also can go out quickly.

Speaker 7: (14:51)
Under our bill, if at least 50% of your students are in-person 50% of the time, you qualify immediately for the second two thirds of the money that would come to your school. And if it’s less than that, it has to be explained in a different way, left up to governors and the education department in the state to work on that. On the health front, we have 20… We have 16 billion new dollars, which is a total of $25 billion for testing. Our priority to help with testing through the states, is to put a priority on elementary and secondary education, on higher education, on nursing homes, and childcare facilities. Childcare facilities also get a lot of attention in this bill, $15 billion in childcare facilities, that frankly have a work model that doesn’t work at 45 and 50%, which is the likely childcare enrollment. As people get back to work, some people don’t want to send their kids, other people will still be looking for work themselves.

Speaker 7: (16:03)
And so, trying to help get the numbers and the space to match, there’ll be some childcare expenses of distancing and other things that have to be done, but you can’t get back to work if you can’t get back to childcare for most families. And if you’re a working parent, particularly if you’re a working single parent, your biggest single problem is being sure that that childcare situation works. We put twice as much money in our bill as the House did in the HEROES Act. And we’ll be talking from, moving forward, from that point. Another $26 billion in our bill goes to further advance vaccines, therapeutics, particularly vaccines. Our hope is to have vaccines out there, that are out there by around the first of next year. And in doing that, we’re going to lose some money because we’re going to move forward with producing some vaccines. We think we’ll get full FDA approval, that just won’t work out.

Speaker 7: (17:07)
Moving forward with the things we think are likely to work, knowing they weren’t all… Won’t all work. But also knowing the ones that do work will be available maybe January the 15th, instead of may the 15th. And in this environment, having a vaccine in January the 15th, as opposed to May, the 15th, is worth billions of dollars, and we’re willing to take a chance of losing some money to be sure that those vaccines that do work are out there earlier. We’ve got Senator Collins, a big leader in being sure we had money for the opioid abuse that has occurred as people found themselves isolated at home and maybe out of work with another problem there, and the mental health issues, so we’ve got about 5 billion on that side of the ledger that would not be there in a normal spending year.

Speaker 7: (18:01)
And there are some… Hospitals and providers, another 25 billion for them, with a real vigorous discussion with the administration that they need to spend all the hospital provider money they currently have not spent, which is about 65 billion, add that 25 billion to it, and then see how close the providers are to where they would be in a normal year. We asked hospitals and doctors generally, providers generally, to do the two hardest things you could do, stop your income and stand ready for the biggest health emergency that you could imagine that your hospital or your practice would ever have to deal with. And that just doesn’t work out very well, so another $25 billion there.

Bob: (18:48)
Chairman Rubio.

Senator Rubio: (18:53)
What’s this about? I’m kidding. I think Senator Collins has already outlined the new PPP proposal. And let me just say that, what you’re hearing a lot now in the small business, as the PPP money runs out is, they’re beginning to look at new layoffs, which I think is evidence of the fact that PPP was helpful. The fact that… But, at the same time, is also evidence that we are seeing resurgences in different parts of the country that are placing new restrictions, plus the existing restrictions for many of these businesses is hard to survive under. And then, of course, the consumer behavior is affected by the news of the pandemic. So, it’s very timely. And in addition to PPP, which is now more targeted at businesses under 300, with some of the same parameters, but with business under 300 and the revenue demonstration, is something…

Senator Rubio: (19:40)
What we’ve seen play out over the last few weeks, and that is that, businesses particularly in underserved and minority neighborhoods, on average, there was a recent study that said, 95% of them had less than two weeks of cash on hand. So you can, from that, deduce how difficult it’s going to be for many of them to survive, not to mention, have access to regular capital markets in the future. So, as part of this plan, in addition to PPP, there is a loan targeted at low income neighborhoods, we’ve got census tracks that are either in opportunity zone or in a new markets tax credit area, where these businesses could get, two times, a loan for 20 years at 1%, at two times of their annual revenue. And these are small companies that would not be able to otherwise gain access to that sort of capital that allows them to survive and grow and reinvent themselves in the aftermath of this pandemic.

Senator Rubio: (20:32)
And what we don’t want to see is an unequal recovery. And so, for us it was important to target that. But, I think this assistance will be timely for small businesses across this country who are continuing to struggle, many of whom benefited from PPP and now months into it are kind of staring over the cliff again, and worried about what the future will hold. And I remind everybody, once again, this is not a bailout, this is about keeping people attached to their employment. And these are about viable companies who are struggling because of government regulations, necessary government regulations, that are impacting their ability not just to do business, but to stay in business. Thanks.

Bob: (21:12)
Senator Scott.

Senator Scott: (21:16)
In the month of April, about one out of every four Americans who lost their jobs, worked in the restaurant business. One of the provisions in the Finance Committee and tax side of this, is to increase the deduction for meals, business meals, from 50% to 100%. That will encourage more folks to spend more money in restaurants, whether that’s takeout, eat-in in the limited space in some states, this will provide millions of dollars that will increase the number of hours worked by the wait staff, and the number of hours worked by those folks working in the kitchen. If we’re looking for a way to help the hardest hit individuals in this nation, one of the best sectors to focus on is the restaurant sector. And this is what the provisions that I’m talking about will assist.

Bob: (22:00)
Senator [inaudible 00:22:04].

Speaker 8: (22:09)
We’d like to draw attention to one of the… Actually, two of the consequences of the COVID crisis that deserve that attention, and perhaps don’t have as much public awareness as I think they ought to. One is, as a result of the COVID crisis, we’re seeing the trust funds for Medicare and Social Security, approach insolvency on a much more rapid timetable than we anticipated. And secondly, we’re adding up a lot of debt. We’re going to have over $27 trillion of debt. And that debt requires interest to be paid every year. That debt has the potential of creating more inflation down the road. And of course, it could lead, potentially, to an economic calamity way down the road for people who come behind us. And as a result, Republicans and Democrats on a bipartisan basis, have been working together, and that includes Senator Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Angus King, Doug Jones.

Speaker 8: (23:09)
This is a group of people who have come together, and Mark Warner, along with about a dozen Republican senators, we’ve all been working together to see if we can address this. And in the House, there are some 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans that have all written House leadership and said, this approach of the TRUST Act needs to be included in the next COVID relief package, in the HEALS Act, if you will. And the approach is quite simple, which is, we created a process, a bipartisan, bicameral process, to address each one of these trust funds individually, so a committee for each one of them to look at how to make them solvent on a long-term basis. And if we reach a bipartisan conclusion and bicameral conclusion, then that can come to the floor on an expedited basis. We have to address the solvency of our trust funds, they’re vital to our seniors and to our entire nation, we also have to finally deal with the amount of debt that we’re adding up as we rescue appropriately the American people from this terrible COVID crisis.

Senator McConnell: (24:25)
Looks like I’m the last one standing here.

Speaker 9: (24:26)
Leader McConnell, a few questions. The first is, it was very difficult for you to get Republicans to negotiate with the administration on this legislation. [inaudible 00:24:41]. So, it was very difficult to negotiate with the administration to come up with an agreement [inaudible 00:24:47] begin negotiations with the Democrats. You were talking about $40,000 as an income tax in the direct payment that is not in the legislation, so what else are you going to have to give if you come to an agreement with Democrats and not lose too many Republicans? And also, why is funding for the FBI building in this bill?

Senator McConnell: (25:11)
I’m not sure that it is, is it?

Speaker 10: (25:18)
[inaudible 00:25:13]. There’s a limitation to [inaudible 00:25:18] COVID related matters, so we’ll get more [inaudible 00:25:21].

Senator McConnell: (25:25)
Look, I think this is a starting place. You can see that we’ve had a lot of our members involved in the start, and we can’t pass a bill in the Senate without Democrats, nor obviously can it pass the House. So, every bill has to start somewhere. The Republicans are in the majority of the Senate, this is the starting place. And we’ll get… You all will have plenty of stories to cover along the way as we have these discussions back and forth across party lines and with the administration.

Speaker 11: (25:58)
Two quick questions. One, I didn’t see any election assistance in the bill… Oops, sorry. I didn’t see any election assistance in this bill, is there [inaudible 00:26:06]? if not, why [inaudible 00:26:08]? And also, we talked about PPP in this bill but did not discuss the airline… The cash to keep airline and air employees, so [inaudible 00:26:21].

Senator McConnell: (26:22)
I don’t have an answer to the second one. The first one is, that we’ve already appropriated an awful lot of money for election assistance. What we’re not going to do is, federalize the American election system. Which is basically conducted in every single state, in very different ways. We provided plenty of financial assistance, but we’re not going to tell them how to conduct their elections during the pandemic, or in my view, in the future either. So, that’s why there’s not additional money in there for election assistance. I don’t have the answer to your second question. I’m going to take one more, if there is one.

Speaker 12: (26:59)
Senator, [inaudible 00:27:00] there is $1.75 billion for the ‘design and construction’ of the Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the FBI, according to [inaudible 00:27:13], is it possible that the $2 billion [inaudible 00:27:17]?

Senator McConnell: (27:20)
Well, with regard to that proposal, obviously we had to have an agreement with the administration in order to get started. And they’ll have to answer the question of why they insisted on that provision.

Speaker 12: (27:31)
Is it important [inaudible 00:27:32]?

Senator McConnell: (27:33)
You’ll have to ask them why they insisted that be included. Thank you.

Speaker 13: (27:36)
Thank you