'The coronavirus does not care that we are divided. The coronavirus will not care if Washington Democrats decide it suits their partisan goals to let relief run dry. The American people are hurting and Congress should have their backs.'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the HEALS Act:
"When the Senate passed the CARES Act back in March, we were trying to prepare the nation for economic paralysis and the medical battle of the century at the same time.
"Hospitals, healthcare providers, small businesses, and working families needed help fast. And the Senate stepped up in historic fashion.
"For months, our legislation has helped cushion the pain of this crisis from coast to coast. But our nation is not finished with this fight.
"More Americans are dying every day. Millions and millions are unemployed. And the institutions of American life cannot stay totally shut down until our race for a vaccine hits the finish line.
"Our nation needs to smartly and safely re-open while keeping up the medical battle. We need to get kids safely back to school and adults safely back to work without losing ground in the healthcare fight.
"The coronavirus does not care that we are divided. The coronavirus will not care if Washington Democrats decide it suits their partisan goals to let relief run dry.
"The American people are hurting and Congress should have their backs.
"On Monday, I laid down a marker to shape the bipartisan conversations that need to happen now. Not a loony ideological fantasy like the House Democrats' bill from a few months ago, which would have cut taxes for rich people, raised taxes on small businesses, and provided no additional round of the Paycheck Protection Program.
"No, serious talks require a serious starting point.
"That's why we wrote a serious bill, containing largely bipartisan policies.
"Another round of cash for households — more than $3,000 for an eligible family of four, with even more support for adult dependents...
"Another round of additional federal unemployment benefits, assistance which will otherwise simply expire...
"And another, targeted round of the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent even more layoffs and keep paychecks coming to American workers.
"Powerful new incentives to jump-start rehiring, bring down unemployment, and create safe workplaces for workers and customers.
"More support for hospitals and health providers, more support for testing, PPE, and diagnostics, and more resources for the sprint toward a vaccine.
"And historic support for schools to reopen — a higher dollar amount than House Democrats managed to propose in their bill which cost three times as much.
"And — uniting all three pillars of kids, jobs, and healthcare — we have legal protections for medical workers, schools, nonprofits, and businesses so that well-connected trial lawyers can't get even richer off of stopping the recovery in its tracks.
"This is a more-than-fair, more-than-bipartisan framework for Democrats to engage with. The only reason I can see that Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Leader would sabotage negotiations is if, as some concluded when they killed police reform in June, they actually think bipartisan progress for the country would hurt their own political chances.
"That's why I said a few days ago that we'd quickly learn whether the American people would be getting the responsible Democratic Party from March or the cynical, obstructionist Democratic Party from June that blocked police reform. So let's review the early going.
"Almost the instant we put out this proposal — which would send thousands of dollars in cash to families and even more cash to unemployed people — the Democratic Leader proclaimed "those Republican hard-right money people... don't want the federal government to help anybody."
"A trillion dollar proposal for kids, jobs, and healthcare just proves Republicans don't want to help anyone.
"Yesterday, after a meeting with the Administration, the Speaker of the House said this, quote, "isn't a negotiation."
"Here we go again. It's the script from police reform all over again.
"Weeks of talk from Democrats about the urgency of the issue. Weeks of Democrats thundering that people will be hurt if we don't act. But then, when it's time to actually make a law, Democrats would rather keep political issues alive than find bipartisan ways to resolve them.
"Take the issue of the additional federal unemployment insurance. For weeks now, it has been clear to a majority of Americans that we should not pay people more to stay home than we pay the people who continue working.
"Should we have generous unemployment insurance in this crisis? Of course. Republicans want to continue the federal supplement at eight times the level Democrats themselves put in place in the last recession.
"But obviously we should not be taxing the essential workers who've kept working so the government can pay their neighbors a higher salary to stay home.
"Until about five minutes ago, this was not a controversial opinion. Democrats shared it with us.
"The House Democratic Majority Leader said yesterday, quote, "That's an argument that... has some validity to it... It's not $600 or bust."
"A few days earlier, our Democratic colleague Senator Coons said he thought we'd be "finding some path forward" with a different dollar figure.
"The day before yesterday, our colleague Senator Cardin said, quote, "What is the right number? Well, we certainly understand we don't want someone to have higher benefits than what someone can make working." End quote
"At the state level, the Democratic Governor of Connecticut agrees. Quote: "I think sometimes it discourages work... I would put off this extra $600 true-up they're talking about... I don't think we need that."
"Like I said — not controversial. The Congressional Budget Office says that five out of six recipients of this aid — 83% — receive more to stay home than they made on the job.
"That's not fair and it's not workable in a re-opening job market.
"We've already heard from small-business owners who have had trouble re-opening because it would be financially irrational for their employees to come back!
"This is why Republicans propose to continue providing federal aid, continue providing hundreds of dollars per week, but do it in a more targeted way, while providing even more incentives for re-hiring.
"But now, the Speaker of the House apparently signaled she rejects this bipartisan consensus and will not let a package go forward unless we continue paying people more not to work.
"That's what Speaker Pelosi apparently signaled yesterday: No money for schools, no money for households, no second round of the PPP, no more money for hospitals or testing, nothing at all unless we continue to pay people more not to work.
"If the Democrats don't get to continue taxing essential workers to pay other people more to stay home, then nobody gets a dime.
"To put it gently, that is a completely unhinged position. Sixty-two percent of Americans say that paying people extra to remain unemployed creates the wrong incentive. A Democrat Governor says he doesn't want that continuing. Her own deputy, the House Democratic Majority Leader, said yesterday there should be room to negotiate.
"But Speaker Pelosi is literally moving the goalposts so fast that even Democrats can't keep up.
"And now she apparently feels that any rescue package will have to be to the political left of her own Democratic Majority Leader, to the political left of the Democratic Governor of Connecticut, or she will not even consider it. She'll just refuse to legislate until the election and wish American families good luck dealing with the pandemic.
"These are not the positions of people who are putting the common good above politics.
"These are not the positions of people who actually want to reach an agreement to save federal unemployment insurance from completely expiring.
"The American people deserve better than this.
"The American people cannot afford for Democrats in Congress to have decided in June that they're done legislating until November. Not during a crisis like this.
"The country needs help. The country needs action.
"If Democratic leaders decide they won't negotiate, they will answer to the American people."