McConnell open to state aid in next virus relief package

Full Screen
1 / 3

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this April 21, 2020, file photo Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks with reporters after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shelved a proposal for proxy voting this week after Republicans objected. In the Senate, McConnell rejected a GOP remote vote proposal. He expects Congress to return May 4, as planned. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON – Shifting tone, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he is “open” to considering additional funds for state and local governments in the next coronavirus relief bill as the chamber returns to session during the pandemic.

The Republican leader faced a storm of criticism from the nation's governors after panning Democrats' proposal for more than $500 billion to help cash-strapped local governments cover the sudden extra costs of police, fire and other front-line workers in the crisis. Last week, he suggested states should be allowed to go bankrupt.

While saying he's willing to consider new funds, McConnell insisted the next package must also include federal liability protections from what he warned will be an “avalanche” of lawsuits against businesses that reopen during the pandemic.

“There's no question all governors, regardless of party, would like to have more money, I’m open to discussing that,” McConnell said on Fox News Radio.

Congressional leaders staked out priorities Wednesday for the next round of aid even as key senators joined their House colleagues in sounding alarms over the health risks of reopening the U.S. Capitol.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged McConnell to reconsider, saying there is “no way” to bring 100 senators plus staff to the Capitol complex without "increased risk.”

Feinstein said, “This is the wrong example for the country.”

The Washington, D.C., region remains a virus hot spot, health officials say. Feinstein noted the number of Capitol staff and police officers testing positive for the virus. Stay-home orders are in place through mid-May for the District of Columbia.