Kentucky’s Senior U.S. Senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, was in Kentucky Monday to talk about the $12 billion in CARES Act funding received by the state. McConnell’s first stop was at the Dare to Care food bank in Louisville, a nonprofit that received a Payroll Protection Program loan, where he spoke with reporters and greeted workers.
McConnell pointed to the food bank as one of the 47,000 small businesses in the state to receive a PPP loan, totaling $5.2 billion in federal funds. At the first press conference, McConnell said he expects another federal relief package to get approval sometime in July, as the pandemic is “clearly not over”, he said. COVID-19 has been surging in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida. The senate majority leader said he thinks the next aid bill must address issues like healthcare, jobs, getting kids back in school and liability protection.
“This is not just for businesses,” he said of the liability protection. “It’s for hospitals, doctors, nurses, nonprofits, universities, colleges, K through 12. So, that people who act in good faith during this process are not confronted with a second epidemic of lawsuits.”
He said “we can’t have a normal country if kids are not in school,” and that resuming school is connected to people getting back to work.
A reporter asked McConnell about what he’s doing to address police brutality and racial injustice concerns brought forth by protesters across the country.
McConnell said he and Republican colleagues had introduced a police reform bill that they “thought made sense for the country.”
“Most of these reforms are at the state local level, but there is a role for the federal government to play,” he said. “Unfortunately, our Democratic friends prevented us from taking the bill up. And so as a result of that, we’ve not been able to act yet.”
Democrats did vote to block the Senate’s bill in June.
During a speech on the senate floor in June, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described the legislation, called the JUSTICE Act, “deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed,” because it didn’t go far enough.
The House passed a police reform bill late June called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
McConnell added that he still has problems with protesters bringing down statues of figures considered to be the nation’s Founding Fathers.
“I’m a big fan of peaceful protesting,” he said. “That is a constitutionally protected right in our country. I’m not a fan of rioting, looting… and tearing down the statues of the people that crafted the beginnings of this country.”
A small group of protesters gathered outside the food bank, banging on drums and trash can lids. They also booed the senate majority leader as he left the building.
Trey Broaddus was among the demonstrators. Broaddus said elected officials such as McConnell “are responsible for the pandemic that we’re in right now.”
“I would just like to point out the disparity right now, that Mitch McConnell is here to thank health care workers when he has the ability to make their jobs easier,” Broaddus said. “He is responsible for the pandemic that we are in right now being so terrible for the American people.”
With the extra $600-a-week pandemic unemployment benefit slated to end July 31, protester John Doeman said McConnell’s media tour on Monday was “a joke.”
Last week, McConnell said he was against extending that benefit, NBC News reported.
“He don’t care about people,” Doeman said.