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McConnell Warns Spending Initiatives 'Playing Russian Roulette' With The Economy

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Mitch McConnell is sounding cautious about throwing his support behind a bipartisan infrastructure package—warning that the ambitious federal spending programs sought by the Biden administration present their own kind of threat to the country.

"We are playing Russian Roulette with the American economy," the GOP leader counseled, taking a question on proposed free community college tuition on Monday. 

The answer got to the heart of the sentor's stated unease with everything from the evolving infrastructure agreement to the $300-a-month enhanced federal jobless benefits. The Republican minority leader said the U.S. is running up a dangerously high debt, the size of the economy itself, and it’s time to get back to work.

"Last year we had a 100-year pandemic... understandable, an emergency. The pandemic is essentially in the rear-view mirror and to continue to borrow and spend at this level is completely unacceptable for the future of this country," McConnell stressed.

But the nation’s ballooning debt has spanned several administrations, rising an estimated $7.8 trillion under former President Donald Trump.

Right now, the focus is on a fragile bipartisan infrastructure deal running nearly $1 trillion. McConnell said he’s encouraged by President Biden’s walking back of a threat to veto a standalone bill not attached to his larger social spending agenda. But the senator is still wary, telling reporters he wants assurances from Democratic congressional leaders that the two major spending projects won’t be linked. McConnell said he hopes a deal can be hashed out. 

McConnell did acknowledge that cutting off the extra pandemic-driven federal unemployment payments would not solve "all the problems" related to hiring shortages, but suggested that "of the things that are available that you could do immediately, it would surely be a huge help."

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has opted to try a $1,500 back-to-work incentive program to bolster recruitment efforts, but has not ruled out ending the enhanced benefits early. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.