U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell touted the COVID-19 vaccines, panned President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal and again defended the controversial election reform law in Georgia during a visit to a Paducah hospital on Wednesday.
McConnell, speaking at a press conference at Baptist Health Paducah Hospital, said the COVID-19 vaccines were a “modern medical miracle” regarding how quickly the vaccines were developed, in less than a year, comparing them to the decades it took to develop the first polio vaccine. He also said it was important for Kentuckians to continue to get vaccinated with eligibility now open to all adults.
“That’s why we’re in the ‘red zone’ and we’re headed to the end zone, and the only way we get to the end zone is to have 75% of our population vaccinated so we have what the experts call ‘herd immunity,’” McConnell said.
When asked if he supports the idea of a vaccine passport, McConnell said his first reaction to the concept is “you’d have to convince me it was necessary,” but didn’t feel informed enough to have an opinion. A vaccine passport is an idea being considered by private business, schools, and governments, which would require proof of an individual’s vaccine or health credentials to be eligible for things such as travel or entry into a business.
Conservative lawmakers across the country including Kentucky’s junior senator have attacked the concept as a “power grab,” while advocates for vaccine passports say the credentials would be critical to fully reopening and ending the pandemic.
Defending Georgia Election Reform
McConnell again defended the contentious election reform law in Georgia, saying the Georgia law did not suppress votes and each state has a right to conduct elections as they see fit. He said he didn’t “artfully” phrase comments he made Tuesday about the law when he told corporations to “stay out of politics.”
“They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics,” McConnell said. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.”
The Georgia law, among other things, would limit the number of ballot drop boxes, create a new ID requirement for absentee ballots, and prohibit third parties from providing food and water to voters waiting in line. President Joe Biden was among Democrats who condemned the law, with corporations including Coca-Cola issuing statements and taking actions condemning the bill.
McConnell also praised the bipartisan election reform bill signed Wednesday by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear that would expand early voting in the state and ballot drop boxes.
Debate Over Infrastructure
McConnell, while touting how the CARES Act passed last year has helped hospitals, lambasted the president’s current infrastructure proposal as excessive, unnecessary and with tax increases he believes could cripple the economy.
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes billions of dollars for not only roads and bridges, but for building out broadband, plugging thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, reclaiming mines, improving water and wastewater infrastructure, and improving the resilience of infrastructure against climate change.
“There’s broad bipartisan support for tackling the infrastructure issue, but it depends on what your definition is,” McConnell said. “I think infrastructure is roads, is bridges, is broadband, but beyond that, they’ve sort of thrown everything but the kitchen sink into it.”
McConnell said he hopes there will be Democrats in the House and Senate that share his view for a more modest and targeted approach to infrastructure.