McConnell: Democrats treating coronavirus pandemic as ‘political game,’ with relief talks still stalled

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said Democrats are treating the coronavirus pandemic as a “political game,” blaming leaders on the left for leaving “struggling people” to wait for critical financial aid.

From the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell, R-Ky., slammed Democrats for blocking pandemic relief “over unrelated liberal demands,” and the press for covering “their stonewalling like any ordinary political standoff.”


“It does the nation a disservice to act like these last several weeks were just another routine political standoff,” McConnell said. “It does struggling families, and laid-off workers, and stressed-out school principals, and health care professionals a disservice to act like this has just been more ordinary Washington gridlock.”

He added: “There are life and death matters at stake — but Democrats have treated this historic national crisis as a political game.”

McConnell said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is pushing for a State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction to be included in the fourth coronavirus stimulus package —  which McConnell said makes “clear he doesn’t want any pandemic relief to become law unless it carries a special state-and-local tax carveout for high-earners in places like New York.”

McConnell added that Democrats have come to the negotiating table with “dead-on-arrival demands,” including bailouts for “poorly managed states,” but said Democrats and Republicans should have “been able to agree on a huge sweep of subjects,” including testing, funds for schools, legal protections, direct payments to Americans and more.

“Republicans wanted to reach an agreement everywhere we could and then continue to fight over the contested questions later,” he said. “But the Democrats said no — because they know their unrelated wish-list items would have no prayer of standing on their own merit. Only these hostage tactics could possibly get their bad ideas across the finish line. So struggling people have waited, and waited, and gotten nothing.”

He added: “That has been the Democrats’ decision.”

“This is not a Washington game. It’s a national crisis,” he continued. “It would serve us better if the Democrat leaders would act like it.”

McConnell’s remarks come as negotiations on Capitol Hill are at a standstill, after weeks of talks with the White House, members of the Trump administration, and Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate.

Over the weekend, President Trump signed four executive actions to provide financial relief for Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, as negotiations for a fourth stimulus package on Capitol Hill reached a stalemate.

Trump’s executive actions included $400 per week in supplemental unemployment aid — a replacement of the program passed under the CARES Act earlier this year that gave unemployed people $600 a week until the federal program expired at the end of July.

The action would require states to pay for 25% of the $400 weekly benefit, while the federal government would pick up 75%.

The $400 payment to unemployed Americans came as Republicans on Capitol Hill argued that the initial unemployment insurance program disincentivized Americans to get back to work, with many collecting more money unemployed than employed. Republicans pushed for the program to be reduced to $200 per week, while Democrats argued the program should be renewed at the original $600 a week.


The president also signed executive actions that would encourage federal efforts to help renters and homeowners avoid eviction or foreclosure for failing to make their monthly payments; defer the payroll tax from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, for employees making $100,000 or less a year; and suspend federal student loan payments and set interest rates to 0% through Dec. 31, 2020 — the current student loan relief program was set to expire on Sept. 30.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slammed the actions as an “illusion,” and Schumer called them “laughable.”

Meanwhile, even Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., slammed Trump’s actions, calling it an “unconstitutional slop.”

Talks had been stuck for weeks, with Democrats demanding more than $3 trillion in the relief bill while Republicans struggled to eventually coalesce around a $1 trillion proposal. Pelosi on Thursday proposed the parties each give $1 trillion and pass a $2 trillion proposal, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday the idea was a “non-starter.”


Mnuchin on Monday said, though, that he believed Democrats could be willing to compromise.

As for the president’s involvement in negotiations, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows “speak on the president’s behalf,” but that the president himself “has been actively engaged in negotiations.”

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