U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks April 9 on the Senate floor regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:
“Our nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
“More than 400,000 Americans have tested positive. Nearly 15,000 have lost their lives. Nurses, doctors, and EMTs are fighting this disease day and night. And important public health measures are creating an economic catastrophe.
“This morning, we learned that 6.6 million more Americans filed for unemployment in just the last week.
“That means more than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs in only the last three weeks. A tragedy that is hard to even comprehend.
“As one journalist put it, we are facing a healthcare crisis with an economic crisis strapped to its back.
“That is why, two weeks ago, the Senate passed the largest rescue package in American history. The bipartisan CARES Act funneled more than $2 trillion into bold programs to help households, fund hospitals and healthcare providers, and keep paychecks coming.
“Before we adjourned, I said the Senate would stay nimble and prepare to react quickly as the legislation came online.
“That is why we are here today.
“Much of the CARES Act is still being implemented, but one key program is already up and running. It’s the Paycheck Protection Program, from Chairman Rubio, Chairman Collins, Senator Cardin, and Senator Shaheen.
“It gives small businesses emergency capital so that workers can keep getting paychecks instead of pink slips.
“Just a few days after the program opened for business, $100 billion in loans have already been committed. That is 30% of the total funding, spoken for in just the first few days.
“That is very good news. It means this job-saving program is attractive to small businesses. Employers can access it.
“But it also means we need more funding and we need it fast.
“Soon I will ask unanimous consent to increase the funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to a new total of $600 billion.
“I’m not talking about changing any policy language that both sides negotiated together. I am literally talking about deleting the number 350 and writing 600 in its place. A completely clean bill.
“I want to add more money to the only part of our bipartisan bill that is currently at risk of running out of money.
“So I was surprised to see this simple proposal met uneasily by the Democratic leadership.
“The distinguished Democratic Leader and the Speaker of the House sought to use this crucial program to open broader negotiations on other topics, including parts of the CARES Act where literally no money has gone out the door yet.
“The Democratic leadership has suggested they may hold Americans’ paychecks hostage unless we pass another sweeping bill that spends half a trillion dollars doubling down on a number of parts of the CARES Act, including parts that have not even started to work yet.
“The country cannot afford unnecessary wrangling or political maneuvering. Treating this as a normal, partisan negotiation could literally cost Americans their jobs.
“We are in a situation right now where passing a bill means either unanimous consent or a voice vote. Everyone knows there is zero chance that the sprawling proposal that our Democratic friends have gestured towards could pass either chamber by unanimous consent this week. No chance. The President has already indicated he would not sign it.
“The country needs us to be nimble. To fix urgent problems as fast as we can. To be able to have focused discussions on urgent subjects without turning every conversation into a conversation about everything.
“We need to patch holes as we see them and keep moving forward together.
“Everybody in the Senate voted to send historic funding to hospitals and healthcare providers. Everyone supports funding hospitals. I’m in favor of even more funding for hospitals and providers down the line. I’ve been talking to a number of them, as I’m sure our colleagues have, over the past couple weeks.
“But certainly we need to see the existing funding begin to work before we can know what additional resources may be needed. I’ve been urging Secretary Azar to push this money onto the front lines as soon as possible. I’m glad tens of billions will go out tomorrow.
“There is only one part of the CARES Act that is already at risk of exhausting its funding right now: The Paycheck Protection Program.
“We are asking small business owners across America to place their faith in us. We are asking them to keep workers on payroll because Congress, the Treasury, and the SBA will have their back. We must not fail them. My colleagues must not treat working Americans as political hostages.
“This does have to be, nor should it be, contentious.
“We don’t have to divide along the usual lines so soon after we came together for the country.
“To my Democratic colleagues — please, do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more.
“Nobody thinks this will be the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We don’t have to do everything right now. In fact, our posture of needing unanimous consent does not even permit us to try to do everything right now.
“We cannot play games with this crisis.
“Let’s pass more non-controversial funding for Americans’ paychecks. Let’s do it today. And then let’s continue to work together, with speed and bipartisanship. We will get through this crisis together.”