Exclusive: McConnell defends crafting $1 trillion stimulus plan without Democrats
In a CNN exclusive, Dana Bash speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the $1 trillion economic stimulus plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday defended the Senate Republicans coming up with a proposed $1 trillion economic stimulus plan to battle the coronavirus without any input from Democrats, saying bipartisan negotiations were skipped in favor of speed.
“Actually, it’s speeding it up. We just passed yesterday a bill, it was written in the Democratic House of Representatives,” McConnell told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview.
“The Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. We wanted to put forward our proposal. We feel like we have an obligation to do that as a majority and the Democrats, of course, need to be given an opportunity to react to it and that all begins tomorrow. So don’t create controversy where there isn’t controversy.”
The emergency economic aid proposal would include direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses. The proposal’s formal rollout sets the stage for Republicans and Democrats to try to reach a bipartisan agreement to move a stimulus package forward as the virus continues to spread.
When Bash pushed the Kentucky Republican on whether moving forward without Democrats at the start of the process will actually slow the bill’s passage, McConnell said, “This is the quickest way to get it done. Trust me, this is the quickest way to get it done, exactly the way we’re doing it.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a joint statement, declared the proposal — as written — a nonstarter.
“We are beginning to review Senator McConnell’s proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,” the statement read.
McConnell said the Senate is facing “a totally new experience” in responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic but stressed “help is on the way” to those affected.
“This is a totally new experience. So there isn’t a precedent you can look to, but we’re moving as rapidly as we can to try to deal with all these shortcomings and to — to get help to the American people,” McConnell said. “That’s why we’re here and we’re trying to operate on a bipartisan basis to do that. And I think we’ll succeed.”
Describing the unique challenge the virus has posed for the country, McConnell called it “very different” from the 2008 financial crisis or the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“It’s a very different thing,” he said. “And the key to this clearly is to get past this, to bend the curve, as (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Dr. (Anthony) Fauci continues to tell us. And that requires this kind of isolation that shuts down the economy. So it’s our job to step in and help people through what we hope will be a short term shutdown of the our economy.”
The deliberations — and specifically the proposed stimulus package’s $1 trillion price tag — underscore the scale of the virus’s impact across the country.
More than 2,700 new cases were reported in the US in 24 hours between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning and at least 13,000 people across the country have tested positive for the virus, as of Thursday evening. At least 195 have died.
In response, states are ordering new shutdowns and restrictions every day and public health officials are encouraging the public to stay home and practice social distancing.
And even as the stimulus package heads toward fierce deliberation, McConnell emphasized that “help is on the way” for the American public.
“We’re operating here as rapidly as we possibly can,” he said. “By congressional standards this is warp speed.”