McConnell says Americans are too dumb to understand why COVID relief is actually bad


Polls show Americans know what's in the American Rescue Plan and like it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that the American people only support President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan because they are clueless about what it contains. But polling shows that the public strongly backs the key provisions of the American Rescue Plan, which McConnell and his caucus spent two months trying unsuccessfully to defeat.

In an interview on "PBS NewsHour," McConnell (R-KY) was asked why 70% of Americans back the bill he called the worst piece of legislation he'd seen enacted during his more than 36 years in the Senate.

"I'm not surprised that the American public's initial reaction to this, before they know what's in it, would be positive," he answered. "I mean, the thought of many Americans getting a $1,400 check, why would they not like that?"

He then argued that voters are widely uninformed about the law's provisions. "I understand why the American people's initial response to this is positive. What they do not know is how much of the bill has nothing to do with the pandemic. Less than 1% of it deals with vaccinations. Only about 9% of it deals with health care."

McConnell's inaccurate figures completely omit hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to help states and localities deal with public health.

McConnell is correct that the $1,400 checks, which he singlehandedly blocked in December, when he was the Senate majority leader, are popular. But he is wrong to suggest the rest of what's in the $1.9 trillion plan is somehow a mysterious secret.

In January, when Biden announced the plan, he was clear about the many ways it would be aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic and rescuing the economy. It included tax cuts of more than $3,000 for the average American; unemployment benefits; $350 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments; more than $125 billion to support a return to in-person instruction at schools; and tens of billions of dollars for virus testing and vaccination.

McConnell and his GOP Senate minority caucus spent two months attacking the bill.

"Any further action should be smart and targeted, not just an imprecise deluge of borrowed money that would direct huge sums toward those who don't need it," he argued on Jan. 25. "That's why the new Administration's first draft of their sprawling proposal misses the mark."

"Less than 1% of the money goes to the vaccines that will end this nightmare. Only 9% to the entire healthcare fight put together," he said in a March 4 Senate floor speech. "I guess it's become a rite of passage for a new Democratic president to begin with a poorly-targeted spending spree that doesn't give Americans what they need."

But polling shows strong support for the other provisions of the bill too.

According to a CNN poll released Wednesday, 85% of American adults back the tax credits, 77% support the school funding, and 59% support the funds for state and local governments — the very funds congressional Republicans repeatedly decried as "blue state bailouts."

In all, that poll found 61% support for the overall package that McConnell and every single House and Senate Republican voted against.

And another poll this week, by Morning Consult/Politico, found 75% of all registered voters back the $1.9 trillion package, while just 18% oppose it. Among Republicans, 59% said they support the legislation and 35% do not.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.