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McCarthy thinks coronavirus could have been contained had China taken U.S. help

Top House Republican 'frustrated' by Chinese Communist Party saying Americans created virus

Published: March 11, 2020 12:15pm

Updated: May 26, 2020 6:24pm

Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, is usually a happy-go-lucky kinda guy. But when Just The News sat down with him in his office this week to discuss the serious and deadly coronavirus, his habitual state of upbeat optimism turned to anger directed directly at China. 

“If President Xi would have allowed what President Trump asked for — to let in our scientists, our doctors, our researchers — at the very beginning in January, we probably could have contained this in China,” the House minority leader told us. “Their denial has made this spread quite further.” 

Washington officials have previously stated that the Chinese government did not respond to initial offers of help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other U.S. health personnel.

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What gets McCarthy in even more of a lather are reports suggesting that some of China’s state-run media channels are pushing out a bogus message that the coronavirus started in the United States. 

“You know what is frustrating to me?” the California lawmaker asked. “That the Chinese Communist Party is openly saying the CIA created this. They're not taking responsibility for where this happened.” 

This past week, McCarthy went to Twitter and called the illness the “chinese coronavirus.” 

Swift criticism by liberal critics followed, saying that the tweet had racist overtones. The Sacramento Bee editorial board called on McCarthy to apologize. 

“I'm not going to apologize for calling it that,” McCarthy adamantly tells Just The News. “My daughter has Lyme Disease. Do you know where that started? Lyme, Connecticut. Zika. It started from the river in Zika (Forest).” 

It’s clear McCarthy’s frustration with how China has handled the crisis has reached a boiling point and has left him skeptical of the Chinese government’s handling of the crisis.

“The one thing I do know is that every day we learn something new about this,” he said.

Meanwhile, within the halls of Congress, the virus has left a handful of McCarthy’s Republican colleagues in states of self-quarantine, after some of them came into contact with someone who had the virus at CPAC, a big conservative political event held recently in the D.C. area. 

McCarthy also attended the event but says he’s not in danger, saying, “I wasn't in contact with the individual.” 

As for operations on Capitol Hill, the minority leader says there have been increased health inspections and precautions on everything from elevator buttons to rails and doorknobs. 

He says there are even new buckets for visitors to put their personal items into when they come through security — all part of making sure that the focus now is to have the correct procedures in place, not something more drastic. 

“There's no need to shut down Congress right now,” McCarthy tells Just The News.

Check out the full interview below.

With Congress still reporting to work, a potential economic stimulus plan may be in the works. It would hopefully combat what many expect to be a slowdown in the U.S. economy, but McCarthy is taking a wait-and-see approach. 

“We want to make sure whatever we do is effective and is helpful, but we've watched before at times when Obama would just throw some big stimulus,” he said. “You’d spend a lot of money but wouldn't get the outcome. So we want to be smart about whatever we do.” 

McCarthy suggests a more nuanced approach, something along the lines of a targeted stimulus package to help in certain areas. 

“We have a very strong economy right now,” he says. “We want to make sure we're able to maintain this so we look at places more like surgical … There are certain industries that have been damaged. Small businesses are going to get hurt, hourly employees. So what can we do to assist that to keep people working?” 

As for committing to a possible payroll tax cut, McCarthy won’t pledge either way at this point. 

“We’re looking at what we can do there to make sure the employer is continuing to hire people through this process,” he said. “We're just in the preliminary stages. Let's see what's best.”

Democrats, who control the House, have signaled their opposition to a payroll tax cut, saying it will help corporations more than employees.

They also want any such measure to include policy prescriptions that help families deal with the coronavirus fallout: from free testing to coverage for paid sick and family leave. 

McCarthy takes issue with House Democrats having delayed a vote on last week’s coronavirus supplemental funding bill — as the Democratic Congressional Campaign ran ads lambasting the GOP and White House’s response to the virus. 

“Can't we for one moment in time put the American public before politics?” McCarthy asks. He specifically called on DCCC Chairman Rep. Cheri Bustos to come clean. 

“I think Congresswoman Bustos owes an apology to the American public,” he said. “She spent campaign money attacking Republicans making this all political.” 

He also questions House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role.

“Did she direct her to do that? Did they hold the bill up simply to run ads?”

Still, as our interview wound to a close, McCarthy said he wants to be perfectly clear about something: Despite deep, divisive politics that get unruly at times, he’s seen something encouraging — a behind-the-scenes effort from leaders of both parties to truly work alongside each other during the crisis. 

“I want all the American public to know we're doing everything we can as a government to make sure we contain this and provide treatment to others,” he said.



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