LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said the final decisions on when and how to restart the economy will come from the states, not from Washington.
President Donald Trump has backed off a statement earlier this week that he has the authority to reopen the economy and, in an interview with WDRB News, McConnell agreed that governor’s such as Kentucky’s Andy Beshear will lead the way.
"The president doesn't have the authority to shut down or open up economy,” McConnell said. “That's really a state and local decision.”
The Senate majority leader is on the task force advising the White House on the economy after COVID-19. He said re-booting business will likely be a slow process that will happen region-by-region, state-by-state, depending on factors such as testing and the rate of infection.
“I notice that our governor, Gov. Beshear, is meeting with other governors in the central part of the country to coordinate the way forward," McConnell said. "I think they will do it cautiously.”
Beshear is being pressured by some to re-open the economy quickly. Protesters outside the Capitol recently tried to drown out one of his daily coronavirus briefings. McConnell is not joining that chorus.
“I think governors have the responsibility for that," he said. "I'm going to let them handle that without playing critic."
Neither is McConnell a critic of the president's handling of the pandemic. WDRB News asked what grade he would give the administration for its handling of the crisis.
“Look, these are really unprecedented times, and I think all the carping and criticism needs to come to a stop,” he said. “We're all in this together — Democrats and Republicans — and we ought to minimize the carping about who didn't do whatever when. I don't think the public is particularly interested in listening to that.”
One key piece of the federal stimulus package, the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help small businesses keep their employees, is already out of money. McConnell said Republicans and Democrats are negotiating a deal to replenish it, and he expects an agreement soon.
“We don't have much time," he said. "That whole $2.2 trillion bill was basically written in my office in under a week in consultation with the Democrats and with the administration. zdo time is not our friend here. We have to move quickly.”
McConnell said much of the stimulus money has yet to be distributed, but he expects Congress will eventually pass a second rescue package.
He said it will take widespread testing, treatment and a COVID-19 vaccine to return the economy to normal. McConnell said the vaccine will take the longest to develop and compared the effort to the World War II Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear weapon.
"All the guns are firing to get this done as quickly as possible: testing, treatment and then vaccine," he said.
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.