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Citing ‘genuine concern’ over national debt, McConnell slows roll on ‘phase four’ relief bill

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With trillions of dollars flowing to provide relief to the American people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been little mention of the national debt — which stands at $24.4 trillion.

At least, up until now.

As the Senate approved a new $484 billion coronavirus aid package Tuesday, this being the third bill from Congress to counter the effects of an unprecedented national emergency brought on by the Chinese virus COVID-19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slowed the roll on speculation that a “phase four” coronavirus bill is in the works.

Citing a need to reopen the economy, the Kentucky Republican said we cannot lose sight of the future impact of adding so much debt, noting that the U.S. has “allocated a stunning amount of money” to the crisis and that we cannot spend our way out of the mess, according to The Hill.

“I think it’s also time to begin to think about the amount of debt that we are adding to our country and the future impact of that,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “And I think we also have seen, with this catastrophic damage to the economy, that until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem.”

The majority leader praised the efforts of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and select governors who are working towards reopening the economy.

As for future relief efforts, McConnell said, “My view is, we have gone so far on the national debt here, that the next time we address this issue, the Senate should be back in session, fully up and running with everybody involved in the discussion. So I’ll predict that we will not try to pass another rescue package by consent.”

With Democrats now looking at a phase four coronavirus relief package, to include funding for state and local governments hit hard by the crisis, McConnell stressed that the debt being piled on is of serious concern.

“Let’s see what we are doing that is succeeding, what is not succeeding, what needs less, what needs more,” he said. “Let’s weigh this very carefully because the future of our country in terms of the amount of debt we are adding up is a matter of genuine concern.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spoke from the Senate floor Tuesday to say we “can’t continue this course,” according to The Hill.

Paul, the only senator who has been infected with the coronavirus, opposed the new relief measure, but said he would not block its passage.

“The virus bailouts have already cost over $2 trillion. Our annual deficit this year will approach $4 trillion,” he said. “We can’t continue on this course. No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine.”

The bill was passed by a voice vote Tuesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spent days negotiating until nearly midnight with Democrats to get them on board.

“The deal includes an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including $60 billion specifically for community banks and smaller lenders, as well as $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing, and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants,” The Hill reported, citing a summary the outlet obtained.

House members are returning to Washington this week and the Democrat-run lower chamber is expected to pass the bill on Thursday morning.

Tom Tillison

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