City business leaders gathered at the Brown Hotel Thursday afternoon for Greater Louisville Inc.’s Capitol Connection luncheon, during which they heard remarks from Kentucky’s highest-ranking political leader.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell served as keynote speaker at the chamber of commerce event, discussing topics including the COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. leaving Afghanistan and the state of the economy.

McConnell began by sharing his support of the COVID-19 vaccine and his experiences with polio as a child.

“As some of you know, I was a polio victim when I was a little kid,” said McConnell. “It took about a half a century, 50 years roughly, to develop two vaccines that finally gave us an opportunity to eradicate polio.”

He compared the time it took to develop the polio vaccine to the much faster creation of the COVID-19 vaccines, giving credit to “Operation Warp Speed” and the $50 billion Congress put up to help fund the creation.

“It never occurred to me that we’d have trouble getting people to get the vaccine,” said McConnell, adding that he’s seen higher levels of vaccine hesitancy than expected as he’s traveled the state.

McConnell mentioned that the vast majority of people currently hospitalized due to COVID are unvaccinated. 

“And so even if you are of only modest intelligence you can reach the conclusion… that you’re playing a dangerous game — no matter what age you are — if you’re unvaccinated,” said McConnell. 

When it came to the economy, McConnell’s focus was inflation and the worker shortage.

McConnell has expressed his dislike of the American Rescue Plan, believing it pumped too much money into the economy, worsening inflation. And he believes the situation could worsen with additional COVID-19 relief, saying there have already been too many “free things” given.

He suggested the various relief packages have only fueled the worker shortage, giving people less of an incentive to return to work.

“Kentucky’s labor force participation is at 56.3%, the lowest in at least five decades and 48th in the U.S.,” said McConnell.

On the topic of Afghanistan, McConnell talked about how much he disagreed with the decision to remove military personnel from the area. 

“I’m probably in the minority of Americans who think what we were doing in Afghanistan was working,” said McConnell. “And as we approach the 20th anniversary of that horrible day and look back over the last 20 years, it’s appropriate to ask the question: Why did we go there, and how did it work out?”

McConnell believes that removing troops has emboldened terrorists worldwide to attack on U.S. soil.

While McConnell was speaking to Louisville business leaders inside the Brown, outside demonstrators with the Louisville NAACP gathered to promote House Resolutions 1 and 4. The For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act, respectively, both focus on the expansion of voting rights. 

In the past, McConnell has not supported either piece of legislation.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.