Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that it is “highly likely” the next emergency coronavirus package Congress passes will include funding for state and local governments, but cautioned that the relief will come with a condition.
“We probably will do another bill. What I’m saying is it won’t just be about money,” McConnell told Politico. “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it.”
The majority leader said in a statement that Republicans “will proudly insist” that the next relief bill include liability protections for companies and health care workers as they reopen amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, he will not acquiesce to “tangential left-wing daydreams,” McConnell said.
With that condition, McConnell said he was willing to work with Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have pushed for additional funding for states and localities as well as an expansion of food stamps, neither of which was included in the latest $484 billion small business relief bill, the fourth emergency coronavirus measure Congress has passed.
Towards the end of last month, Congress passed the historic $2.2 trillion CARES Act, a massive spending package intended to buoy the flagging economy, which has been crushed by the mandatory closure of “non-essential” businesses. Before that, lawmakers sent two other relief bills to President Trump’s desk that dealt with paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, food assistance, and vaccine research funding among other items.
“I’m open to additional assistance. It’s not just going to be a check, though, you get my point?” McConnell said. “We’re not writing a check to send down to states to allow them to, in effect, finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.”
The majority leader also pushed back on the characterization of his earlier remarks that he would be in favor of states filing for bankruptcy rather than getting an aid infusion from the federal government.
“The fundamental point I was trying to make is that we’re not interested in borrowing money from future generations to help states solve problems that they created themselves,” McConnell said, adding that filing for bankruptcy would have been “optional” and he did not expect many states to go that route.
“As soon as we can reach an agreement, we’ll do it,” McConnell said of working with Democrats on a new relief package.