Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not happy with his Democratic colleagues after they refused to back an economic relief package designed to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Taking to the Senate floor, the Kentucky Republican scolded Senate Democrats after the vote failed and accused them of playing “a game of chicken” while American lives hang in the balance.
“The American people are watching this spectacle,” McConnell said per BizPac Review. “I’m told the futures market is down 5%. I’m also told that that’s when trading stops. So the notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd.”
Our nation cannot afford this game of chicken. We cannot afford the cynical partisanship.
This is a national emergency. Not a partisan opportunity.
Doctors, nurses, small business employees, laid-off Americans, and vulnerable seniors need help right now. pic.twitter.com/zXPqodt8ZI
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 23, 2020
“So I want to explain what just happened,” he continued, referencing the failed procedural vote. “Our good friends on the other side would not have been disadvantaged one bit if this vote had succeeded because it would have required potentially 30 more hours of discussion, during which these seemingly endless negotiations could go on as long as they would like.”
“Now the build-up to this, so everybody fully understands, is that we had a high level of bipartisanship in five different working groups over the last 48 hours where members who were participating were reaching an agreement,” McConnell added. “And then all of a sudden the Democratic leader and the Speaker of the House shows up, and we’re back to square one.”
“So, we’re fiddling here — fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care. The American people expect us to act tomorrow,” he said, noting President Trump’s desire to have the bill passed before markets open for trading on Monday. “And I want everybody to fully understand — if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”
McConnell also explained he would be changing his own vote to a “no” so that he could reserve the opportunity to reconsider it at a later time.
“Now I changed my vote which gives me the opportunity to move to reconsider at a later time,” he said as BizPac Review reports. “That’s all I can do in the face of this obstruction.”
“Look, I can understand obstruction when you’re trying to achieve something,” the Republican leader continued. “This obstruction achieves nothing. Nothing whatsoever other than prevent us from getting into a position where there are literally 30 more hours that they could use to continue to dicker.”
“So at a time when the country is crying out for bipartisanship and cooperation — and we saw that over the last 48 hours when regular members of Senate, not in the leadership office, not in the speaker’s office for goodness sakes, she’s the Speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Senate. We don’t have one. We were doing just fine until that intervention,” McConnell said.
He concluded (per BizPac Review):
So I want the American people to fully understand what’s going on here. The markets are already reacting to this outrageous nonsense. We have an obligation to the American people to deal with this emergency and to deal with it tomorrow. And if we don’t, I want everybody to fully understand you’ve seen everybody who’s on record, I’ve conspicuously avoided trying to turn this into any kind of partisan effort for two days. But it’s pretty clear what’s going on here.
Hopefully, some adults will show up on the other side of the room and understand the gravity of the situation and the need to act before the markets go down further and the American people become even more depressed about our lack of ability to come together under the most extraordinary circumstances.
We’ve never been confronted with anything like this before. It’s totally different. And we’re not immune to it in terms of the public health risk. The coronavirus has hit the Senate today as well. We have five members, five members in self-quarantine.
Everybody understands the emergency, particularly when it hits close to home. It’s not just back in our states, but right here in the Senate. So I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, step up, step up. Help us reach an agreement so we can do what needs to be done for the American people no later than tomorrow.