McConnell hits brakes on ‘phase four’ coronavirus relief
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hit the brakes Tuesday on any speculation that Congress would quickly pass a “phase four” coronavirus bill, saying that lawmakers need to begin thinking about the country’s growing debt.
McConnell, speaking to reporters after the passage of a $484 billion “interim” bill, said more funding would not solve the “problem” sparked by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, which has cratered the economy.
“I think it’s also time to begin to think about the amount of debt we’re adding to our country and the future impact of that. … Until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem,” McConnell said.
“Let’s weigh this very carefully because the future of our country in terms of the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern,” he added.
In addition to Tuesday’s bill, Congress passed a mammoth $2.2 trillion stimulus package late last month. It also passed two other coronavirus-related bills that were estimated to cost roughly $8 billion and $104 billion, respectively.
Debt held by the public is on track to exceed the size of the entire U.S. economy this year for the first time since World War II, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
And the federal deficit for fiscal 2020 rose to $743.6 billion in March, according to Treasury Department data. That does not include the $2.2 trillion passed by Congress.
Democratic leadership are already turning their attention to a phase four coronavirus relief package, including a new round of funding for state and local governments that have been hit hard by the coronavirus.
But McConnell, asked about priorities, took a wait-and-see approach, predicting that Congress would not pass another bill until lawmakers return to Washington. Neither chamber is expected to return before May 4.
In the meantime, the GOP leader argued that he hoped to see the “beginning steps” of shuttered parts of the country reopening in the next few days.
“Unless we get our economy up and running again, there’s not any way we can spend enough to continue to prop up the country,” McConnell said.
He added that lawmakers should “begin to think about the implications to the country’s future for this level of national debt, begin to see some evidence of the economy beginning to get back to normal, hopefully, in states that are less impacted.”