CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday for pushing a stimulus proposal that would largely leave cities and states empty-handed, and urged her party to dig in.
“I hope what Democrats in Congress will say is, ‘Over my dead body,’” the mayor during a press briefing to talk about plans to distribute the vaccine for Covid-19 in Chicago. “Every single town and municipality in this country is hurting. Blue, red, purple; independent mayors, Republican mayors, Democratic mayors.”
Lightfoot regularly attacks McConnell and other Republicans unwilling to consider financial aid for local governments who have seen their revenues nosedive since the spring as social distancing policies shuttered businesses and curbed tourism. But the recent rollercoaster in negotiations on Capitol Hill have fueled her frustration.
While there is some bipartisan agreement on writing a new round of stimulus checks, McConnell has pressed negotiators to drop two of the biggest sticking points in the talks: Democrats’ desire for state aid and Republican hopes for liability protections for employers potentially facing Covid-related lawsuits.
“I know that there’s a lot of posturing that goes on in Washington, D.C., but dear God, stop the nonsense,” Lightfoot said. “Get something done. We are hurting here in the heartland and all across our country and we need the federal government to step up and do their job.”
Chicago, like many cities across the country, has suffered huge losses due to Covid-19’s impact on tax revenue. The Chicago City Council last month approved a $12.8 billion budget for 2021 that includes a $94 million property tax hike, along with increases in fees and fines, to help shore up a $1.2 billion budget deficit. The city, the state of Illinois, and much of the Midwest, have seen an uptick in Covid-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks, triggering a new round of restrictions on restaurants and other businesses already struggling to stay afloat.
Some Republicans have also been reticent to help Democratic-heavy cities, while close allies of McConnell have said some states didn’t need the aid, arguing for an approach that focused on aid for schools, colleges, child care and individual relief.
“To basically turn your back on state and local governments at a time when we are hemorrhaging and looking at severe service cuts, putting people out on the streets, and unemployment, cutting back on services that actually could be a stimulus to the economy — that’s unbelievably short-sighted,” Lightfoot said.