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September 10, 2020

Citing Results of Previous Bipartisan Negotiations, King Opposes McConnell’s “Illusion of Action”

In statement, King highlights that previous opposition to Republican-led efforts resulted in vital funding for state governments, increased unemployment insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement after voting against a proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) which would not have adequately met the crisis facing the American people – and which was hundreds of billions lower than the previous Republican relief gesture. In his statement, Senator King highlights the fact that previous moves to reject Senator McConnell’s coronavirus relief proposals have resulted in drastically improved legislation, including additional funds for states and localities, increased unemployment insurance, and more money for healthcare providers working to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

“After months of inaction from a Senate Majority Leader who admitted he didn’t feel any urgency to act, Americans are starved for coronavirus relief,” said Senator King. “The pandemic’s economic fallout is hitting our families and our workforce hard; it’s threatening to bankrupt our states and localities, which would put the jobs of first responders at risk and take vital services away from our citizens just as they’re most needed; it has the potential to create chaos during the upcoming election season, creating division and confusion during the nation’s most sacred democratic process. Americans are hurting, and they deserve more than this ‘skinny’ bill that feels more focused on creating the illusion of action than on actually addressing the problems at hand.

“I voted against this proposal today for a number of reasons: it contains no new funding for states and localities; it offers almost zero flexibility to allow already-distributed federal monies to be spent on the most pressing concerns facing each individual state; it cuts the federal unemployment benefit in half, and then eliminates those small benefits within just a few short months, regardless of the status of the virus or the economy. Rather than addressing these challenges facing Americans nationwide, the legislation prioritizes provisions that would preempt every state’s laws on liabilities, and chooses to subsidize private school tuitions even as public schools face unprecedented logistical and financial hurdles.

“When we passed the CARES Act in March, that came only after the initial Republican-drafted proposal was voted down – twice – leading to negotiations. These discussions produced valuable, meaningful changes that helped American workers and the states weather the early days of this crisis; if I didn’t oppose Senator McConnell’s original bill, Maine would not have received $1.25 billion to help address this crisis, would have seen reduced unemployment assistance during the height of job losses, and lost out on funding to support the medical professionals who are working so hard to treat our patients.  

“My hope today is that this rejection opens the door to a similar set of important negotiations, and that the Majority Leader engages in good-faith talks with Senators beyond his caucus. However, I fear that today’s vote was simply a political attempt to check-the-box, in an effort to paint a picture of having tried and failed, and shrug it off as a political disagreement. Americans deserve more than a shrug, they need a solution and certainty; they deserve a Congress that responds to this moment with real relief where it is needed most.”

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