ERLANGER, Ky. — Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday visited St. Elizabeth Healthcare to praise his state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and encourage Kentuckians to get the shot whenever they can.
"I took the vaccination as quick as I could," the 79-year-old senator said.
McConnell also took time to defend his own vote against the most recent $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which allocated more money to distribution of that vaccine, handed out $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans and extended unemployment benefits to millions of households.
Those benefits should be phased out soon, he added, arguing that further extensions would be too expensive.
“At least the Democratic part of the federal government, any time they can declare anything an emergency, they want to borrow money for it,” he said.
The United States Department of Labor estimates about 19 million Americans continued to receive some form of unemployment insurance by March 6, the most recent week for which data was available. Kentucky has struggled badly to process requests and distribute aid to people requesting it, including many who spent months worrying the money they were owed would never arrive.
McConnell said he remains opposed to further spending on unemployment and added he’s ready to oppose the Biden administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan on similar grounds.
The proposed plan would be paid for by raising the country’s corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, reversing tax cuts that McConnell and fellow Republicans passed during President Donald Trump’s term.
“It’s like a Trojan horse,” McConnell said of the plan. “It’s called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse it’s going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy.”
He acknowledged that he was speaking miles from one of the country’s biggest infrastructure sores: The Brent Spence Bridge, a critical but badly outdated span that carries commuters and commerce across the Ohio River every day. State transportation leaders believe building a sister bridge to alleviate its traffic jams will cost more than $2 billion.
McConnell agreed the Brent Spence needs a replacement but said he would be unlikely to support the Biden infrastructure bill in its current state, even if it would pay for the construction of the sister bridge.
“I can't imagine that somewhere in a multi-trillion-dollar bill there wouldn't be money for the Brent Spence Bridge,” he said. “Whether that's part of an overall package I can support, I can tell you — if it's going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt, not likely.”