McConnell: Dems won't allow 'a penny' in stimulus 'unless Texas and Florida bail out New Jersey'
'Working families call this pandemic a crisis. They call it a nightmare, but leading Democrats call it an opportunity,' McConnell said.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued on Monday that Democratic leaders view the coronavirus pandemic as a political "opportunity" to "bail out" states such as New Jersey, adding that Republicans are willing to support another coronavirus stimulus plan that includes funding for other areas.
McConnell said the Senate GOP's coronavirus relief package "focused on kids, jobs, healthcare, and legal protections to help our country reopen," as well as another round of direct stimulus payments.
"I'd hoped the Senate would be spending this week turning a major agreement into law, but sadly for the country, sadly for struggling Americans, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Democratic leader decided we would not deliver any of that," McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor.
"They stayed true to their comments from very early on in the pandemic," he added. "This is the way they looked at it. They saw this pandemic as, quote, 'a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.' That was the House Democratic Whip. Speaker Pelosi herself put it this way: 'This is an opportunity. Every crisis is.' Working families call this pandemic a crisis. They call it a nightmare, but leading Democrats call it an opportunity."
McConnell described the $1 trillion state and local funding that House Democrats passed in the HEROES Act as one of the major disagreements in the stimulus negotiations with the White House.
"Democrats say nobody gets another dime of relief unless state and local governments get about a trillion dollars in extra money," he said. "State and local governments have only spent about one fourth of the huge sums we sent them back in the springtime."
McConnell referred to the state and local aid as something Democratic leaders have sought in the past.
"Clearly this isn’t really about COVID. Democrats think they smell an opening they have wanted for years — to make Uncle Sam bail out decades of mismanagement and broken policies in places like New York, New Jersey, and California," he said.
"And so they've decided that no working family anywhere in America can get another cent, not one cent, unless they get to create a trillion-dollar slush fund for mismanaged states, completely out of proportion to pandemic needs," he added.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have advocated for continuing the added $600 weekly federal unemployment payment. Senate Republicans have proposed reducing the benefit. President Trump signed an executive order over the weekend that would continue the benefits at $400 weekly.
"No deal unless we pay people more to stay home. It's not about COVID. It’s not about a real reopening. It's about far-left ideology. They preferred for the jobless benefits to go down to zero unless they could pay people more to stay home," McConnell said, referring to continuing the $600 benefit. "Nobody gets a penny unless Texas and Florida bail out New Jersey — so this is where we are."
McConnell said Trump's executive actions, which also included a payroll tax deferral, would "help spare some Americans some of the pain from the Democrats' hostage-taking."
Schumer called on Senate Republicans and the White House to negotiate with Democratic leaders and "meet in the middle" on a large comprehensive stimulus package.
"We said to the president's negotiators last week, we'll meet you in the middle. We'll cut a trillion, you raise a trillion. You know what they said? Absolutely not. I said to them, you mean it's your way or the highway? And they said yep," Schumer said Monday on MSNBC. "I hope saner voices in the Republican Party will prevail and say, sit down with Pelosi, sit down with Schumer, and meet them in the middle for God's sakes. That's what we're willing to do."
The Senate GOP's stimulus proposal totaled $1 trillion, while the Democrats' HEROES Act would cost between $3.4 trillion and $3.7 trillion.