With COVID-19 Assistance Set to Expire, Democrats Say 'Let Them Eat SALT'

'Republicans have put forward a framework that would do huge amounts of good for huge numbers of American families. If Democrats ever come to the table, we'll be able to bridge our differences and make a law.'

McConnell official 600

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks Thursday, July 30, 2020 on the Senate floor regarding the HEALS Act:

 

"On Monday, Senate Republicans released a starting proposal for another major pandemic rescue package.

"Here's what we want to do:

"Continue a federal supplement to unemployment benefits that is otherwise about to expire.

"Send thousands of dollars more in cash to American families.

"Keep funding the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent more layoffs.

"Subsidize re-hiring to get laid-off workers their jobs back and create new incentives for workplace safety.

"Give K-12 schools, colleges, and universities funding to re-open safely — more money than the House Democrats proposed.

"Support healthcare providers in the latest hotspots and keep supporting the race for vaccines.

"Provide common-sense legal protections so that schools, hospitals, and other employers can re-open without being buried in lawsuits.

"That's what we put forward. A trillion dollars for kids, jobs, and healthcare. A framework that is more generous in key areas than House Democrats' unserious proposal. A framework that could have kept the additional federal payments to unemployed workers flowing, instead of expiring this week.

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"But there's a fact of life here in the United States Senate. It takes 60 votes to legislate. So the American people cannot get any of the additional relief that Republicans want to give them unless Democrats come to the table.

"Either our Democratic colleagues come to the table, or the American people won't get this help.

"That's why I said that this week would come down to one key question:

"Will the country get the Democrats who showed up in March to pass the bipartisan CARES Act, or will the country get the Democrats who showed up in June to block police reform and keep that issue alive through November?

"Unfortunately, three days in, it hasn't been a close call.

"The Speaker of the House and the Democratic Leader refuse to let anyone else speak on their side.

"I understand the Democratic Leader has actually forbidden his own Democratic ranking members from talking and negotiating with their Republican counterparts who are spearheading the different components.

"You see, bipartisan, member-level discussions might actually generate progress.

"And progress does not appear to be something the leaders on the other side want.

"On Monday, the Speaker of the House claimed she could not wait to start negotiations.

"But then on Tuesday, she said her discussion with the Administration, quote, "isn't a negotiation."

"And then the Speaker said "the appropriate thing for the Senate to do is to pass a bill and then we can negotiate with them." Meanwhile the Democratic Leader is over here, making sure that cannot happen.

"This is quite the partnership: The House Speaker moves the goalposts while the Democratic Leader hides the football.

"They won't engage when the Administration tries to discuss our comprehensive plan. They won't engage when the Administration floats a narrower proposal. They basically won't engage, period.

"The Speaker and the Democratic Leader are playing rope-a-dope with the health, welfare, and livelihoods of American families.

"With benefits expiring... with the Paycheck Protection Program winding down... with millions unemployed...

"...The Democrats are saying my way or the highway with a socialist wish-list that was laughed off by everyone, from journalists to economists, the instant they introduced it.

"This is what reporters had to say about Speaker Pelosi's proposal from May. Quote: "The more than 1,800-page bill marks a long wish list for Democrats." Quote: "Neither this bill nor anything resembling it will ever become law."

"Even the Speaker's own Democratic members knew it was a joke. Quote: "Privately, several House Democrats concede [the] bill feels like little more than an effort to appease the most liberal members of the caucus." End quote.

"Yet this is what they're holding out for.

"Let's recall some of the specific items. These are the things over which Democrats are blowing up negotiations and forcing a lapse in extra unemployment benefits. A tax increase on small businesses.

"Taxpayer-funded checks for illegal immigrants.

"Taxpayer-funded diversity studies of the legal pot industry.

"And their ongoing obsession with something called the state-and-local tax, or SALT, which would be a massive giveaway for high-earners in blue states. In other words, a tax cut for high-earners in blue states

"Let me say that again. Democrats are holding up help for struggling people over special tax cuts for rich people in blue states. An idea that's been criticized by economists from all sides.

"Republicans want to get more help to families now. But Speaker Pelosi says: let them eat SALT.

"They also want to spend another trillion dollars bailing out state and local governments that have only spent 25% of the money we sent them in March.

"This is silly stuff. None of it should be stopping negotiations. And none of it would be — if our Democratic colleagues actually wanted to get an outcome.

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"Let's talk about unemployment insurance. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that in these extraordinary times, it makes sense for the federal government to provide historic additional help, on top of normal unemployment.

"Republicans don't want this aid to expire. Our plan continues it. But the Speaker and the Democratic Leader say they won't agree to anything unless the program pays people more to stay home than to work.

"Prominent Democrats have publicly said they agree with our position. The Democratic Governor of Connecticut has said he wants to continue the benefit at a more targeted level. Multiple members of the Senate and Speaker Pelosi's own House Democratic Majority Leader have all said in the last few days that they're open to negotiating this.

"But the Speaker and the Democratic Leader have cut all their colleagues out. They are standing alone, saying our way or the highway. And so people are going to suffer.

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"I understand the Democratic Leader said he felt offended when I noted that some people are suggesting Democrats' strange behavior is explained by politics. That some people think Democrats are behaving like national suffering will only hurt President Trump.

"Now, the Democratic Leader himself pointed that exact accusation at various Republicans during the Obama presidency, on multiple occasions. I know memories can be short around here, when it's convenient.

"But more broadly, actions speak louder than words.

"Democrats spent weeks shouting that the Senate should act on police reform. But when Senator Tim Scott gave them the chance, they blocked action. They blocked the Senate from even taking up the subject.

"And now, so far, the sequel.

"Democrats talked a big game about wanting to provide more assistance. But now that it's "go time," they show zero appetite for any bipartisan outcome at all.

"This is personal for me. Kentucky is not finished fighting with the coronavirus and the federal government must not be finished helping Kentuckians. 

"Laid-off Kentuckians need more help. Kentucky schools need more help. And under our proposal, Kentucky alone would receive $193 million for testing and contact tracing to fight the spread of the disease.

"This should be just as personal for every single Senator. 

"None of our states deserve the Democrats' rope-a-dope. No American family deserves it.

"Don't my distinguished Ranking Member colleagues wish they could be involved in robust, bipartisan discussions with our chairmen, like in March... and not watching from the sidelines as their Leader shuts down talks on TV?

"Do they really think their Leader's tactics are serving the common good of their states?

"Republicans have put forward a framework that would do huge amounts of good for huge numbers of American families. If Democrats ever come to the table, we'll be able to bridge our differences and make a law."

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