EXCLUSIVE: Senator Josh Hawley discusses next COVID-19 stimulus package

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COLUMBIA - It has been almost six months since the first COVID-19 stimulus relief bill was passed. There have been discussions for a second relief bill, but talks have stagnated in recent weeks.

KOMU 8 spoke to Senator Josh Hawley, (R)-MO, as talks surrounding the new bill have slowed. Below is the full transcript from the conversation.

Let's start with sort of the big thing on a lot of people's mind right now, which is that next stimulus package. From someone who's out there in Washington D.C. right now, what has that been looking like? And when can we, in Missouri, expect to see that?

HAWLEY: "Oh, well, I hope sooner rather than later. You know, I've said since April, this past April, that Congress ought to be focused on providing relief to workers and working families. And I proposed the plan way back then to do it. I still think it's the right way to go.

My proposal is support every business that has lost workers, every job that has been lost for COVID. Let's get those workers back to work. Let's cover the payroll expenses for a period of months to help workers get back on the job to help businesses hire new workers. So folks who have permanently lost their jobs can get new ones.

People can get back on the job, can get their health care from their work back. That's where I think our efforts ought to be focused. So we'll see. I have to say, I'm not holding my breath.

It's been months and months and months, where Congress has failed to reach consensus. Democrats right now are showing no signs of compromising, I think, frankly, they would rather go into the election and without any further relief so that they can play the blame game. I hope it doesn't come to that. And I hope that we focus on working people and working families."

You mentioned that impasse. Is there any sort of middle ground between the House package and the Senate package and anything like that? Is there any sort of thing that's in the House package that you may support? I know it's a little bit bulkier on the House and in the Senate, but is there anything in the middle ground that you might support?

HAWLEY: "Well, I'm going to support things that are helpful to workers and working families.

You know, recently I proposed relief to homeschool parents. It includes parents whose kids are online or at home and online because their school districts are closed. That's happened, of course, in the Columbia area where kids are doing distance learning, you know, that often represents costs to parents, cost and time, certainly, but also out of pocket costs.

They've got to upgrade the Wi-Fi to make it go faster. They've got to buy other products, they've got to maybe work some shifts, that missed some shifts at work. Rather, I think we ought to be providing support to these working families who are out of pocket for these costs right now and are dealing with this right now.

So I would just say that I think there is, in terms of your question, about compromise. I think there's a lot of potential here. If it's focused on working families and getting people back to work, I think there's a lot of potential. But, you know, we've got to see a willingness to do it on both sides. So we'll see."

You mentioned the election as a point as well. Does the election slow down these talks? Is there this idea that both sides are kind of digging in until after the election? I know you mentioned that you're not hopeful that it's going to happen quickly. Is that sort of the general consensus out there right now?

HAWLEY: "I think that the election is absolutely having an effect. You know, frankly, I've only been in Washington a little over a year and since I've been here, the Democrats have been looking toward the 2020 presidential election, and basically tried to have the Senate shut down all of this time.

I mean, they have repeatedly refused to let us bring bills to the floor repeatedly. Let us take up legislation of all kinds, whether it's worker relief, whether it's judicial nomination, you name it. The Democrats have been trying to slow it down for a year and a half, just so they could get to the 2020 election.

And I'm sorry to say, I think that that's happening now too. And I think that there's not much appetite right now, on the other side of the aisle to strike a deal because they think that it will actually be good for them politically. I would just say, I think that's an awfully perilous equation.

The American people and certainly people Missouri, deserve support, workers need further relief. And I hope that we'll find a way to do and I hope the Democrats will want to come together and get it done."

I want to switch gears here for one second and talk about here in Missouri as well, not just out in nationwide with the stimulus package. The White House Task Force recently recommended a statewide mask mandate here in Missouri and in Columbia, that's something we've been experiencing for the past couple months. Governor Parson, on the other hand, has said that while he does support the usage of masks, he doesn't support a statewide mask mandate. As a senator from Missouri, where do you fall on that issue?

HAWLEY: "I think the governor actually has done the right thing by allowing for flexibility, I think giving our different municipalities all across the state or county governments or municipal governments, giving them flexibility to tailor measures that work for them. And it's based on the data in that region. I think that's really good.

I mean, Missouri is a big state, and we're diverse state, you know, what's good for mid-MO is not necessarily the same as what's good for southeast Missouri or good for Kansas City or St. Louis or southwest [Missouri].

So I think allowing the municipalities to tackle this and have the regulations that makes sense for their region based on their data, I think that's been a good approach. And I think it's worked well, I mean, you see, in Missouri, you see different measures being taken in different counties, in different municipalities based on the needs locally.

And I think that that's a good way to go. Many other states are following that same pattern, and I think that's been wise."