U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding COVID-19:

“This week marks two years since the federal government first declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.

“I don’t need to recount the staggering number of lives lost or the terrible upheaval throughout society that our citizens have had to endure.

“Two years in, it is time for leaders at all levels of our society to take a deep breath, clear the decks, and review where we stand today.

“Here is what we know in February 2022.

“Thanks to the prior Senate’s work with the prior Administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines for all who want them.

“We know the vaccines do not prevent us from catching the current variant of the virus or transmitting it to others. So there is no moral justification for vaccine mandates.

“But it is absolutely clear that vaccines slash the odds of hospitalization and death. They are a powerful personal shield that lowers the fatal risk of COVID beneath other normal background risks that we face regularly in daily life.

“As the New York Times explained this week, ‘with a booster shot, COVID resembles other respiratory illnesses that have been around for years…’ And, ‘the chance that an average American will die in a car crash this week is significantly higher.’

“The good news goes on. As we have known for months, children are even better off still. Unvaccinated kids seem to face the same extremely low risks as vaccinated people on the younger side of middle-aged.

“In February 2022, we know we are currently facing an omicron variant that seems both significantly more contagious than its predecessors but also significantly less severe.

“Even in hard-hit states like Kentucky, where hospitalizations remain too high, the curve of cases and hospitalizations appears to be starting to bend back down.

“I continue to encourage Kentuckians and all Americans to discuss the vaccines with their doctors and take this safe and effective step. It can be the difference between life and death.

“But from a society-wide perspective, after two years on this hellish highway, it appears our country is finally arriving at the off-ramp.

“The virus appears to be heading endemic. Seventy percent of Americans agree with the statement, ‘it’s time we accept that COVID is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.’

“It is time for the state of emergency to wind down.

“But disturbingly, whether or not we should trust the science and reclaim normalcy is somehow becoming a partisan question.

“As a New York Times writer observed last week, ‘millions of Democrats have decided that organizing their lives around COVID is core to their identity as progressives, even as pandemic isolation and disruption are fueling mental-health problems, drug overdoses, violent crime, rising blood pressure and growing educational inequality.’ Those are not my words, Madam President; that’s the New York Times.

“For goodness’ sake, nearly 60 percent of partisan Democrats told one survey they’d support placing unvaccinated people under a form of house arrest! A supermajority of Americans oppose that absurd idea, but most Democrats say they’d support it.

“A majority of Americans oppose the heavy-handed vaccine mandates where mayors and local politicians are trying to substitute their own judgment for the decisions of free citizens and their doctors. A majority of Americans oppose these vaccine passports. But nearly 80% of Democrats want them.

“In communities across the country, bureaucrats are still forcing young children to wear masks to participate in society, when neither kids nor vaccinated adults are remotely likely to get gravely ill.

“What exactly are we doing here? Where are the goalposts? What is their end game?

“Consider if this variant were its own separate virus that we were just meeting for the first time, without the scar tissue from the prior two years. Nobody would accept anywhere near this much disruption to fight the virus that we are actually facing now.

“Here in Washington, multiple Congresses have spent a staggering $6 trillion on this crisis.

“Of the most recent $2 trillion that our Democratic colleagues rammed through last year, only 9% went to healthcare in any form. Less than 1% went to vaccines. Even within that 9%, the Biden Administration then diverted important COVID funding to other unrelated crises, like their border crisis.

“Now we hear Democrats may request yet another huge chunk of emergency spending. But experts say as much as $800 billion or $900 billion of the money that we’ve already set aside as not even been spent yet.

“What about a full accounting of the $6 trillion that’s already been approved?

“If there are urgent needs for true, medical COVID needs, let’s discuss that. And let’s start that discussion by talking about repurposing the hundreds of billions that are already sitting in the pipeline.

“As one report put it, ‘the vast majority of the almost $200 billion allocated to K-12 schools has not been spent. The same goes for half of the $195 billion sent out to state governments. And most city and county governments have not spent much of the $130 billion they… received, either.’ Many states are swimming in cash and running surpluses. They’ve had to dream up creative, non-COVID-related uses for these windfalls.

“So, look, Madam President.

“Two years in, if Democrats call for more giant sums of emergency spending, the burden of proof lies with them to demonstrate the hundreds of billions of unspent dollars already in the system are not sufficient.

“And unless something changes — so long as COVID continues retreating to the level of risk that we all regularly face in other aspects of daily life — then our leaders’ duty to the American people is clear.

“Trust the vaccines. Follow the data. Forget the tribalism.

“Work to assuage people’s fears and neuroses with facts, instead of feeding into them.

“And articulate your clear game plan to give the American people back their normalcy in the very near future.”

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