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McConnell: CARES 2 is tailored precisely for this phase of the crisis

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using a GOP virus aid proposal as a starting point in negotiations with Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using a GOP virus aid proposal as a starting point in negotiations with Democrats.(Source: Senate TV/CNN)
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 10:55 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks Thursday on the Senate floor regarding CARES 2:

“As I said Tuesday, our nation stands at a critical midway point in our fight against the coronavirus.

“We made it through the springtime lock-downs. Americans’ sacrifices saved our medical system. And the Senate’s historic CARES Act helped millions of families make it through.

“But this terrible virus is still with us. It kills more Americans every day.

“Some areas that have reopened have seen cases spike. Our hospitals, healthcare providers, and especially our vulnerable citizens are nowhere near out of the woods.

“Meanwhile, although the early days of our economic recovery have beaten expectations and surprised the experts, we have really only begun to repair the damage. More than 17 million Americans are still jobless. Far too many families are still hurting.

“This is not over. America’s fight continues. And so Congress’s support for our people must continue as well.

“The Senate majority has assembled a framework for CARES 2. The administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down this proposal early next week. We have an agreement in principle on the shape of this package.

“It is the framework that will enable Congress to make law and deliver more relief to the American people that is tailored precisely to this phase of the crisis.

“Chairmen Grassley, Alexander, Collins, Rubio, Shelby, and Blunt, and Senators Cornyn and Romney, have each spearheaded a part of CARES 2.

“And so, on Monday, these committee chairmen and Republican members will introduce each component.

“The sum of these efforts will be a strong, targeted piece of legislation aimed directly at the challenges we face right now.

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“Our country is in a middle ground between the strict lock-downs of a few months ago... and the future day when a vaccine will put this behind us.

“Our project now is to build a middle ground that is smart and safe but more sustainable.

“We are still waging a healthcare war against this virus, and we cannot let up. We need to continue to strengthen the defenses we have built -- encouraging mask-wearing, supporting testing, and racing toward treatments and vaccines.

“But at the same time, the greatest country in world history also needs to get back on offense.

“We need to carefully but proactively step back towards normalcy.

“This disease has already stolen the lives of more than 140,000 Americans. It has stolen half a year of our national life.

“We cannot let the robbery continue without a fight. We cannot let this pandemic rob us indefinitely of our children’s educations and the livelihoods of 17 million American workers.

“We need to get Americans back to work and school while continuing to fight for our nation’s health. That is what CARES 2 is designed to do.

“Our proposal will not waste the American people’s time with go-nowhere socialist fantasies. We aren’t choreographing political stunts or teeing up the same old partisan trench warfare.

“Our proposal will focus on three things: Kids, jobs, and healthcare.

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“Number one -- kids.

“A functioning society needs to educate its children and young adults. Our kids need us to invest in their future and working parents need some certainty.

“We need as many K-12 schools, colleges, and universities as possible to be safely welcoming students this fall. So Chairman Alexander, Chairman Shelby, and Chairman Blunt are finalizing an ambitious package of funding and policy to help our schools reopen.

“They will lay out a reopening-related funding package for schools and universities north of $100 billion. That’s more money than House Democrats proposed for a similar fund.

“And there will be several important policies to help childcare providers, grant new flexibility to elementary and secondary schools, and more.

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“Number two -- jobs and the economy.

“Two provisions of the CARES Act worked especially well to help households stay afloat and help as many workers as possible stay employed.

“So, as Chairman Grassley will explain, Republicans want to send a second round of direct payments to American households. And Senator Collins and Senator Rubio have crafted a sequel to their historic and incredibly successful Paycheck Protection Program. It would give the hardest-hit small businesses an opportunity to receive a second loan if they continue paying their workers.

“We also intend to continue some temporary federal supplement to unemployment insurance, while fixing the obvious craziness of paying people more to remain out of the workforce.

“Small business owners across the country have explained how this dynamic is slowing rehiring and recovery. So we’re going to provide help, but make sure it is suited to a reopening economy.

“But temporary relief cannot be our endgame. Americans do not just want to scrape by. They want to thrive again. They want a road back to the incredible job market we had just a few months ago.

“So Chairman Grassley will also lay out bold policies to incentivize retention, encourage rehiring of laid-off Americans, and help businesses obtain PPE, testing, and supplies to protect their employees and entice customers.

“Think of it this way.

“In the spring, our economy needed life support.

“Today, while continuing to support families, we must also get the economy into physical therapy so it can actually regain its strength.

“And finally, looking to the long term, the COVID-19 crisis has weakened the critical federal trust funds that Americans rely on. So, as Senator Romney will explain, our proposal includes a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Senate Democrats, to help a future Congress evaluate bipartisan proposals for protecting and strengthening the programs that Americans count on.

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“Now, our third pillar is the most important of all -- healthcare.

“Our entire reopening and recovery depend on knocking this awful virus onto its heels.

“So, as Chairmen Alexander, Blunt, Grassley, and Shelby will explain, CARES 2 will continue to treat the root causes of this medical crisis.

“More resources for hospitals and healthcare workers. More help to keep sprinting towards diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. New policies to shield seniors from a spike in Medicare premiums.

“And new legislation that will leave us with better surge capacity to produce medical countermeasures right here at home the next time a crisis strikes.

“There is one more essential element that ties schools, jobs, and healthcare all together: Legal protections to prevent our historic recovery efforts from simply lining the pockets of trial lawyers.

“We will preserve accountability in cases of actual gross negligence and intentional misconduct.

“But we’re going to make sure that nurses and doctors who fought an unknown enemy are not swamped by a tidal wave of malpractice suits.

“And we will make sure that school districts, colleges, churches, nonprofits, and employers that obey official guidance do not have to delay reopening because they’re afraid they’ll spend 10 years in court.

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“So this is where Senate Republicans are focused.

“More support for healthcare, more direct help for American families, and strong policies to help our country pivot into a safe reopening.

“We will propose to continue and renew some of the most successful CARES Act policies, while adding bold new ideas to help get schools and jobs open for the American people.

“This is the package our country needs. This is what we will introduce.

“We are repeating the successful strategy that produced the historic, bipartisan CARES Act in March.

“First, I asked a number of Republicans to spearhead a serious first draft. Then we put those elements together and invited our Democratic colleagues to the table. And guided by our road map, working with the administration, the Senate reached a bipartisan outcome.

“Earlier this week, even Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer seemed to concede that things go better when Republicans lead. They themselves said the real work on this next bill would only begin after Republicans laid out the framework.

“Well, I’m glad my Democratic friends see things my way.

“I just hope they meet our serious, fact-based proposal with the productive and bipartisan spirit that got us the CARES Act, rather than the cynical partisanship that led them to block police reform last month.

“Doctors and nurses will need Democrats to come to the table. Unemployed Americans will need Democrats to come to the table. Working parents and schoolchildren will need Democrats to come to the table.

“We’ve known all along the American people would defeat this virus by understanding that we’re all in this together.

“If we want to deliver more historic relief, the Senate will need to remember the same thing.”

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