The policies behind the Kentucky U.S. Senate race
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democratic challenger Lt. Col. Amy McGrath discuss coronavirus, racial justice, and national influence.
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The eyes of the nation are on the bluegrass state as a former fighter pilot tries to take down the Republican Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Democratic challenger Lt. Col. Amy McGrath digitally connected with the Gray D.C. Bureau to discuss the issues behind their campaigns.
In the time it takes to read this section, about 60 Americans will contract the coronavirus. Statistically speaking, one or two of them will not survive it.
While scientists seek cures and vaccines, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said his plan proposes half-a-trillion dollars to deal with the fallout. “We want to target these programs to help those who are still left behind, and we think this is the way to do it,” said McConnell .
His bill would funnel cash into schools, struggling businesses, and unemployment payments.
But negotiations are stalled, with the Democratic House and Trump administration pushing for a far more expansive package, at four times the cost. McConnell says his fellow Republicans aren’t willing to swallow another two-trillion dollar bill and suggests the president and House accept his offer.
“If you can’t get everything you want, why not get some progress,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s Democratic challenger - retired fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Amy McGrath – calls the offer too little too late.
“McConnell’s the one who is stopping this,” said McGrath of McConnell’s relief proposal.
McGrath said another rescue package must also include assistance for state governments – like Kentucky’s – left financially underwater by the pandemic’s economic effects. She calls for a more substantial coronavirus testing and tracing program and hazard pay for essential workers, as well as renters' assistance and child care subsidies.
“It’s not a wish list, these are things America needs right now”, said McGrath, "people are really hurting right now, and it didn’t have to be this way.”
Both candidates said coronavirus is the biggest challenge the country faces. How and when Congress takes action again will likely hinge on their race and others around the country.
Calls for change continue to wash over the streets of Louisville seven months after officers killed Breonna Taylor in a botched raid on her home. Meanwhile, justice reform remains stalled in the U.S. Capitol.
“Policing is not a federal responsibility, most of the reforms are going to occur at the state and local level,” McConnell said.
Despite that disclaimer, the majority leader backs a bill that would collect more data on use of force and ‘no knock’ warrants, require better reporting of police misconduct, and offer guidance and training dollars for de-escalation.
Democrats blocked the JUSTICE Act this summer, arguing it does not amount to real reform. “They simply filibustered it to death so we couldn’t even consider it,” McConnell complained.
McConnell refuses to consider a bill passed by House Democrats in June – because it would strip officers of immunity from civil lawsuits, which he calls a poison pill. His challenger – former fighter pilot Lt. Col. Amy McGrath – supports the measure, highlighting a database to prevent officers with a track record of misconduct from fleeing their past.
“We’ve got to move in the right direction, there’s real inequality here, there’s real systemic racism," she said.
McGrath argues criminal justice is not the only system in need of reform. She prescribes new housing credits and insurance reform to address the wealth and health gaps between black and white Americans.
“These are common sense thing," she said, "these are things we have to do at the federal level to make sure they’re done right.”
Close to home and across the country, protesters and counter-protesters continue to make their voices heard in the public square. They will have the opportunity to do the same at the ballot box through Nov. 3rd.
McConnell, as Republican Majority Leader, sets the agenda in the Senate -- known as the world’s greatest deliberative body. But, he sees steering a record number of conservatives judges onto the nation’s highest courts as the cornerstone of his legacy.
“It’s a long-lasting positive contribution to the country of young men and women who believe in the quaint notion that maybe a judge ought to just follow the law," he said.
McConnell said his position helps Kentucky draw more than its fair share from the federal government. He points to cash for addiction treatment, education, and to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus. In total, it amounts to an extra three-billion dollars a year for Kentucky by his math.
“I give Kentucky the ability to punch above its weight on national issues and to bring home things for this state that it would not otherwise get,” he said during their debate earlier this month.
McGrath concedes she cannot match McConnell’s seniority but argues she could improve upon his results. She said the state needs Congress' help to raise workers' wages and provide better health care coverage for the under and uninsured.
“He talks about Kentucky, ‘we punch above our weight’, well it feels like we’re being sucker-punched here”, she said.
McGrath said the Senate should have term limits, and characterizes the majority leader as out-of-touch with the needs of his home state.
“He has been there so long, and is so much a part of the problem, that he doesn’t even know what the problem is anymore”, she said.
Whether the state sends a newcomer or political veteran back to the Senate next January will be up to voters on Nov. 3rd.
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