McConnell: Infrastructure will not be in next coronavirus relief bill

McConnell: Infrastructure will not be in next coronavirus relief bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that infrastructure will not be part of Congress's next coronavirus relief package, even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE has pushed for it to be included.

McConnell, speaking to Fox News, said that while he was interested in passing an infrastructure bill, it was "unrelated" to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which Congress is expected to address with another bill as soon as next month. 

"We have an equal interest in doing an infrastructure bill. We don't have an equal interest in borrowing money from future generations to pay for it. In other words, it's unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic," McConnell said.  

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Pressed on whether was saying he did not want the next coronavirus bill to include infrastructure, McConnell added, "Yeah, I'll be clear. Infrastructure is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic that we're all experiencing and trying to figure out how to go forward." 

"We need to make sure that whatever additional legislation we do is directly related to this pandemic," he said. 

Instead, McConnell said the Senate will pass a "more modest" infrastructure bill "in the near future." That package is expected to build off a highway bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year.

Trump and the White House have indicated they want to include infrastructure as part of the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration and some lawmakers in Congress have hoped for years to strike a deal on a larger infrastructure package but struggled to cut an agreement.

He tweeted last month that there used to be a "big" and "bold" package included in the so-called phase four coronavirus legislation. 

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"It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4," the president tweeted at the time.  

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig Shelby33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Overnight Defense: Senate GOP coronavirus bill includes .4B for Pentagon | US, Australia focus on China in key meeting MORE (R-Ala.) had also embraced infrastructure spending as part of the response to the coronavirus.  

But Trump appeared to tip his hand to skepticism among some Republicans earlier Tuesday when he noted that some GOP senators want to keep it separate from the ongoing response to the coronavirus.

"I think Mitch is looking at it, as I do, to an extent, as the infrastructure — he likes infrastructure. We all do," Trump told reporters.

"We want to do infrastructure, but a lot of people, a lot of the Republicans, would like to keep that as a separate bill, so we'll see how that works out," he added.

One of the main hang-ups to getting a deal on infrastructure is how to pay for it. McConnell has warned repeatedly that he is not supportive of borrowing money to help for it. 

"It would take a lot of convincing to convince me that we should do transportation in a way that's not credibly paid," he told The Washington Post recently.