McConnell: Biden talks 'unity' but White House staff, Dem leadership have different 'playbook' on COVID talks
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Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, in comments on the Senate floor Wednesday, alleged that President Biden's staff and Democrats in Congress are preventing the president from making a deal with Republicans on coronavirus relief.
The comments from McConnell, R-Ky., came after a group of 10 moderate Republicans met with Biden Monday to discuss their just over $600 billion proposal -- Biden's is $1.9 trillion -- and ahead of a meeting Biden has with Senate Democrats Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Senate took a procedural step to begin the budget reconciliation process for coronavirus relief. Budget reconciliation is a once-per-fiscal year gambit that allows the Senate to go around the 60-vote filibuster requirement.
"Yesterday, less than a day after several Senate Republicans spent two hours meeting with President Biden, Senate Democrats plowed ahead with a party-line vote to set the table for a partisan jam," McConnell said of Democrats' efforts to set the table for budget reconciliation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., heads to the Senate floor before being called into session on Jan. 26, 2021, in Washington, D.C. McConnell previewed Republican strategy for budget reconciliation Wednesday. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
He continued: "The new president talks a lot about unity. But his White House staff and congressional leadership are working with a different playbook... the rushed budget process that will play out this week is exactly the wrong path toward making law."
McConnell also alleged hypocrisy from Democratic leaders in Congress, including Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., whose caucus repeatedly filibustered smaller GOP coronavirus stimulus proposals in the Senate over the summer and into the fall.
"In the past year, Congres has worked together to pass five, five, major rescue packages on a bipartisan basis. The Democratic leader spent months saying that any pandemic relief should pass with broad bipartisan support," McConnell said.
McConnell added: "[Schumer] said last July, quote, 'Sitting in your office, writing a bill and then demanding the other side support it is not anyone's idea of bipartisanship.'"
But Democrats say that Republicans' demands would reduce the efficacy of any coronavirus response, leaving people without help and failing to do enough to save the economy. They say that is a lesson learned from Republicans' opposition to economic stimulus and the Affordable Care Act early in the Obama presidency.
"Secretary Yellen told the Democratic caucus yesterday that it is her belief that if Congress fails to dedicate the necessary resources to meet the needs of the American people and survive this crisis, we will see long-term scarring in our economy, and our country would be mired in the COVID crisis for years," Schumer said Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) meets virtually with incoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge on Dec. 17, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Schumer is pushing for a large coronavirus relief package. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
"We must not, must not, repeat the mistakes of the past and do too little, too reluctantly, and too late," Schumer said.
Now that the Senate has moved on to budget reconciliation, in the coming days it will hold 50 hours of debate on the issue before a "vote-a-rama" during which any Senator can file a budget-related amendment to the budget resolution.
McConnell previewed some of Republicans' strategy for that in his Wednesday floor speech.
"We'll be discussing the facts on schools, on jobs and on health care," McConnell said after railing on teachers unions and Democrats for delaying the process of getting kids back in schools. "Senate Republicans will be ready and waiting with a host of amendments to improve the rushed procedural process that's being jammed through."
He added: "We'll be getting senators on the record about whether taxpayers should fund checks for illegal immigrants, whether Democrats should raise taxes on small businesses in the midst of a historic crisis, and whether generous federal funding should pour into school districts where the unions refuse to let schools open."
The record for most amendments voted on during a vote-a-rama is 44, which may be broken this year.