Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said Congress “may have a role” in addressing the issues of police accountability and racial tensions as unrest continues to spur protests across the country.
“This is a vexing issue. If we could have figured out exactly what to do, I think we would have done it years ago,” Mr. McConnell told reporters.
“There is no question that there is residual racism in America,” he added. “It’s been a longtime dilemma, and we all wish we could get to a better place.”
Mr. McConnell acknowledged the “outrage” that has sparked after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in Minnesota after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes.
The Kentucky Republican also highlighted the deaths of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, who were killed in Louisville. Taylor was shot multiple times after officers entered her apartment with a “no-knock” search warrant, sparking an FBI investigation. McAtee was shot as police and the National Guard were attempting to disperse protesters.
Mr. McConnell was optimistic that Washington, D.C., saw less looting and injuries Monday night, but did not comment on protesters who were forcibly cleared by authorities with tear gas and rubber bullets for President Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.
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Mitch McConnell vow on Supreme Court nominee faces obstacles
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a bold commitment to a vote this year to confirm President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death Friday has upended the elections. The Kentucky Republican will have a tougher time fulfilling this commitment, though, than he did with his 2016 promise…
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a bold commitment to a vote this year to confirm President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death Friday has upended the elections.
The Kentucky Republican will have a tougher time fulfilling this commitment, though, than he did with his 2016 promise to block President Obama’s pick.
Two Republicans, Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they will oppose any effort to install a Trump nominee until they see who wins the presidential election.
With Republicans holding an effective 53-47 edge in the Senate, that leaves Mr. McConnell with room for only one more defection.
Justice Ginsburg, on her deathbed, dictated a statement to her granddaughter saying it was her “most fervent wish” that her seat not be filled until a new president is sworn into office in January. Democrats, including presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, say Mr. Trump and the Republican-led Senate should honor that wish.
But Mr. Trump is moving quickly. He said a nominee will be named this week, and it will be a woman.
“We won. And we have an obligation, as the winners, to pick who we want,” the president said Saturday.
Within hours of the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Mr. McConnell flatly stated that Mr. Trump’s nominee would get a vote.
It’s a reversal from 2016, when Mr. McConnell announced just hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that the Senate would take no action on President Obama’s nominee. Over the ensuing months, the majority leader successfully blocked a confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland on grounds that the nominee shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year under the political alignments at the time.
Mr. McConnell has reasoned this time is different because Republicans hold the presidency and the majority in the Senate.
“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement Friday.
Democrats, who excoriated Mr. McConnell in 2016 and demanded a vote, now say he must live by that “election year” standard.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, held a call with his conference over the weekend, and several media outlets reported that he told the colleagues “nothing is off the table” if Republicans move forward to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Mr. Schumer posted on Twitter.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, have suggested that Democrats would attempt to pack the court with more justices to balance out Mr. Trump’s nominees.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, refused Sunday to rule out another impeachment attempt, which could tie up the Senate’s schedule in the months remaining in this Congress.
“We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” Mrs. Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Mr. Biden urged Senate Republicans to repeat their 2016 actions.
“Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created,” he said. “Don’t go there.”
The confirmation battle is likely to become a major campaign issue. Election experts say Mr. Trump’s promise to appoint conservatives and his release of a list of potential names helped turn out Republican voters in 2016 who were not enthusiastic about him.
Mr. Trump appointed Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. If he gets a third justice on the high court, it would be the most since President Reagan.
The Supreme Court battle is playing out in Senate races. Democratic challengers are demanding that Republican incumbents abide by the 2016 standard of not confirming a justice in an election year.
But Mr. McConnell has won commitments from some key Republicans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a senator who said in 2016 and 2018 that he would be bound by the Republicans’ precedent, now says he is on board with Mr. McConnell’s push.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said Sunday that he will back Mr. McConnell’s move as well.
“No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican president’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,” he said. “Sen. McConnell is only doing what Democrat leaders have said they would do if the shoe were on the other foot.”
A spokeswoman for Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, shot down a Twitter report saying the Utah Republican had privately committed to opposing a nominee until after the election.
“This is grossly false,” Liz Johnson said.
Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona, all facing tricky reelection bids, all announced they support Mr. Trump’s push to move quickly.
One wrinkle is that Ms. McSally was appointed to the seat of the late Sen. John McCain and isn’t entitled to the full Constitutional term through January. The Arizona Republic reported Friday that should she lose in November, her Democratic successor could be sworn in as soon as the results are certified, perhaps by Nov. 30.
That could constrain Republicans’ ability to operate in a lame-duck session.
With the current Senate lineup, if Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski join all 47 members of the Democratic caucus to oppose Mr. Trump’s effort to push a nominee before the inauguration, Republicans would have one more seat of leeway — and none if the McSally scenario in Arizona plays out.
Vice President Mike Pence would break a 50-50 tie.
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said he doesn’t rule out some help from Democrats.
“As Mitch McConnell has said, there will be a vote. And I don’t think that we should discount Democratic votes, either,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Cotton said there was a “referendum” on the issue of Supreme Court nominees in the 2018 midterms.
Four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation lost reelection the next month.
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Mitch McConnell rejects mail-in voting concerns: ‘The election is going to be fine’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rejected concerns raised by fellow Republicans who argue without evidence that mail-in voting will cause massive election fraud. “The election is going to be fine,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday. “Many parts of our country vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have voted by mail for years. There…
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rejected concerns raised by fellow Republicans who argue without evidence that mail-in voting will cause massive election fraud.
“The election is going to be fine,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday. “Many parts of our country vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have voted by mail for years. There is nothing we can do or should do, the federal government, to dictate those states how they vote.”
Mr. McConnell, the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill, made those comments and more in contrast to remarks made by other members of the GOP recently led by President Trump.
Speaking at the White House a day earlier, Mr. Trump argued letting all registered voters cast ballots by mail in November’s presidential race will result in a “rigged election.”
Mr. McConnell asserted otherwise while speaking to constituents at the Boundary Oak Distillery in Radcliff, Ky., as recorded in video footage recorded and shared by Reuters.
Additionally, Mr. McConnell suggested in the footage that he agrees with Democrats who believe more aid is needed to help states conduct elections safely this fall.
“I think some additional assistance for elections is probably appropriate,” Mr. McConnell said. He noted some states have not spent aid they already received, however.
Proponents of universal mail-in voting reason it is warranted due to the coronavirus pandemic making it comparably dangerous for Americans to cast ballots at polling places.
Democrats have accordingly led efforts to give billions of dollars in additional funding to the U.S. Postal Service in anticipation of it handling more ballots than ever before.
Mr. Trump has pushed back, however, and has said he opposes the funding because he believes it will lead to massive voter fraud and delay learning the results of November’s race.
“It’ll end up being a rigged election or they will never come out with an outcome. They’ll have to do it again, and nobody wants that,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday at the White House.
Election experts have dismissed Mr. Trump’s concerns as unfounded, and Mr. McConnell indicated he agrees mail-in voting will not result in a “rigged” election.
Contrary to the president’s assertions otherwise, Mr. McConnell said “we’re going to have a credible election” even with more people voting by mail than in the past.
“I don’t think the American people need to worry about the election,” Mr. McConnell, said. “It’s going to occur on time, safely and credibly.”
Mr. Trump is set to compete for a second term against presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden on Nov. 3.
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Mitch McConnell: PPP extension threatened by Democrats’ ‘slush fund’ demand
Extending the popular Payroll Protection Program is one of the few areas of agreement between the White House and Democrats in the latest proposed coronavirus stimulus — a spending bill criticized by many in the Republican base as a wasteful bailout for cities and states. Administration and banking industry sources say Senate Republicans‘ proposal to…
Extending the popular Payroll Protection Program is one of the few areas of agreement between the White House and Democrats in the latest proposed coronavirus stimulus — a spending bill criticized by many in the Republican base as a wasteful bailout for cities and states.
Administration and banking industry sources say Senate Republicans‘ proposal to extend the PPP, which is set to expire this week, for companies with fewer than 300 employees and a reduction of 50% or more in revenue is accepted in principle in the talks.
But the provision, which also offers more generous terms for loan forgiveness, could get sidetracked by Democrats’ insistence on an overall $3.4 trillion package that would include massive aid for states and cities. The White House opposes the state and local aid as a “bailout.”
“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is trying to drive a very hard bargain,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, who is in close contact with Senate Republicans. “That would include genuinely $1 trillion of bailouts for big-spending states and cities. She’s not come off of that.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Democrats Tuesday for prolonging COVID-19 relief negotiations, saying more businesses are closing, people are worried about making rent, and more people are filing for unemployment because of the negotiations’ delay. He said Democrats are demanding a “slush fund” for states and cities.
“It never seems to change,” the Kentucky Republican said, noting it has been more than a week since the GOP introduced its proposal for the fifth round of coronavirus relief. “The Democrats are blocking it all.”
Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio warned of “long-term structural damage” Tuesday without another round of the PPP aid.
“What we’re facing now is a national emergency,” the Florida Republican told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “And in times of a national emergency like this, the government has to play a greater role than it would in normal times. These are not normal times. And if we don’t act now on things like PPP and more, there is going to be long-term structural damage to the economy that’s going to make it almost impossible to ever get the debt under control and not to mention … grow our economy again.”
Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who helped put together the original PPP plan, said Tuesday she’s still “hopeful that common sense will prevail and that we will achieve an overall agreement that will include an extension of the PPP and a second round for the hardest-hit small businesses and their employees.”
The CARES Act, approved in March, provided $349 billion in PPP aid for small businesses, to be administered by the Small Business Administration for firms with fewer than 500 workers. Congress later provided an extra $310 billion. More than 5 million businesses have received the aid since April.
The program was extended through Aug. 8, and about $130 billion is still available.
Senate Republicans‘ bill would add an additional $190 billion to the PPP and make the money available to certain second-time borrowers.
Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York met again Tuesday with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin with few signs of an agreement on a new relief package.
Mr. Meadows said he still hoped they could make progress and avoid the need for President Trump to issue executive orders on measures such as extending federal unemployment benefits and halting evictions in federally backed housing. Both men said the president is “absolutely” willing to walk away from the talks and take action by himself.
Mr. Meadows said they are still “a long ways away from striking any kind of deal.”
The president said Tuesday evening that progress was being made in the talks, but Democrats’ plan to bail out cities and states was a sticking point.
“They’re looking for a trillion dollars to help out with cities run by Democrats, in some cases radical left Democrats,” Mr. Trump said.
He also said he wants to resolve the eviction moratorium, which expired last week.
“This is not a time to be in a shelter with the COVID,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump has proposed issuing an executive order to cut payroll taxes, a move opposed by most Democrats and some Republicans.
Mr. Schumer said Tuesday he is hopeful about the negotiations for a fifth round of relief, suggesting Republicans are open to Democrats’ demands.
“The negotiations are moving forward bit by bit,” Mr. Schumer said.
But the White House also said Democrats were being “fundamentally unserious” in the negotiations, citing Democratic leaders’ raising their overall demand from $3 trillion to $3.4 trillion since the talks began a week ago.
“The president has had a very narrow focus, it’s extending unemployment insurance and it’s making sure Americans don’t get evicted,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, adding that Democrats are “moving in the opposite way.”
Mr. Phillips, who is pushing lawmakers to include more regulatory relief in any package, said the conservative base is strongly opposed to bailing out cities and states.
“I have not seen grassroots engagement at this much of a fever pitch on an issue in years,” he said in an interview. “They are fired up, they’re aware of this issue, and hopefully Senate Republicans would hold their ground and not do some giant bailout. They’re less than 100 days away from an election when a lot of base voters are looking at an issue they’re fired up about. They [senators] could see dramatic frustration among their base if they just do another big-spending, multi-trillion-dollar bill.”
Nearly three-quarters of small businesses in the country have received PPP loans, with the average loan amount about $104,000. Slightly more than one-third of the total disbursed has been loans of more than $1 million.
The administration says the program has saved roughly 51 million jobs.
The National Waste & Recycling Association joined other organizations on letters to congressional leaders urging support for efforts to strengthen PPP as Congress negotiates the next relief package.
The National Waste Recycling Association, which represents companies in all 50 states, urged Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McConnell in a letter Tuesday to expand the PPP program by lowering the requirement on the 50% revenue reduction and allowing the funds to be tax deductible.
“We strongly urge Congress to make the necessary improvements to the PPP as part of the next stimulus package,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith. “It is imperative that the next stimulus package provides the maximum amount of flexibility to employers that it can. Congress should correct the tax treatment of PPP loans and expand eligibility to participate in a second PPP loan.”
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