HAZARD, Ky. (LEX 18) — Senator Mitch McConnell says it's a modern miracle of science to have three effective vaccines within a year.
In front of a crowd gathered in Hazard, he encouraged every Republican, Democrat, Independent, man and woman to get it.
"We're within a week or so of everybody being eligible (in Kentucky) regardless of age. We need to get the vaccine," said McConnell.
The Senate Minority Leader credits that rapid availability to Operation Warp Speed and the bipartisan rescue packages from 2020.
He says last year, the multi-trillion dollar CARES Act was necessary to help Americans. But now, with a recovering economy and growing vaccine roll-out, McConnell remains critical of the $1.9 trillion dollar relief package passed a few weeks ago by Democrats in Washington.
"My concern was the future of our entire country and the amount of debt that we've accumulated which is as large as our economy since World War II," said McConnell.
That bill was passed through budget reconciliation, which only requires a basic majority in the Senate as opposed to the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster.
McConnell acknowledged the talk in Washington about Democrats possibly eyeing using the same process to pass an infrastructure bill, which would bypass Republican input.
"The short answer is I would love to do an infrastructure bill, I'm not interested in raising taxes across America. I think it would send our economy in the wrong direction. Hopefully they dont choose that path but they may," said McConnell.
McConnell spoke to a crowd right in the heart of eastern Kentucky, site of destructive winter storms and flooding.
The longtime Kentucky Republican Senator said he's had talks with county judge executives and officials about the damage left behind."We're gonna do everything that we can to produce the federal assistance once the governor files the disaster designation, which I believe he has done for the ice storms, and is in the process for the flooding. So we're on top of it, and the federal government money wil be here as rapidly as possible," said McConnell.
After the recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Colorado, LEX 18 asked McConnell about his openness to discussions about gun safety in Washington.
“Well this has been a complicated issue. Let me say first, I’m not interested in taking away the Second Amendment rights of any American. But we ought to be focusing on, and if you think about it, every one of these mass shootings is related to one issue: mental illness. Very difficult, complex, perplexing issue. How do you identify people who are likely to do this and how do you intervene in advance? So I think as I could say, none of these mass shootings that we’ve seen would have been impacted by a background check bill. It’s worth discussing a background check bill if that’s what the other side would like to discuss. I’d like to do something about the problem. And I fully admit it’s not easy to tackle this kind of mental illness. We’ve seen a pattern here. It’s typically young men. Some radicalized, some driven to this act of atrocity by different motivations. But there is a type here, and after every one of these shootings, you see stories quoting people who said, ‘well you know, I thought I (saw) him acting strangely, but I really didn’t know what to do about it.’ This is a tough issue. In Europe, they have some of the strictest gun laws in the world, and yet they have some of the same incidences that we’ve experienced. So I’m sorry to give you such a lengthy answer. I’m willing to talk about it. I’m not interested in tackling the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens who deserve the right to have the ability to defend themselves.”