For McSally, ‘inaccurate’ really means ‘unpopular’




    U.S. Sen. Martha McSally listens to President Donald Trump speak at Honeywell International’s mask-making operation in Phoenix May 5, 2020. Photo by Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic | Pool photo

    U.S. Sen. Martha McSally continues to maintain that Congress has already sent enough money to Arizona cities and towns that are just now beginning to realize what the coronavirus buzzsaw has done to their budgets, and she said it’s “inaccurate” to say that she doesn’t support more federal aid.

    Except, of course, that it’s perfectly accurate, because that’s what she said: She doesn’t support the $3 trillion HEROES Act that passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. house last week and includes $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments facing budget crises.

    McSally rebuked a man in a tele-town hall Wednesday for mentioning her prior comments, in which she refused to distance herself from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s assertion that bankruptcy might be better for cities than federal aid.

    “That’s not accurate, so let’s not parrot inaccurate information,” she said.

    McSally then went on to explain exactly why she and Senate Republicans don’t need to send any more money to local governments — comments similar to those her office said this month weren’t ever meant to be public.

    Arizona Mirror obtained audio of McSally’s comments at Wednesday’s tele-town hall from American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC that sets out to “find what Republicans are hiding and make sure voters hear about it,” according to its website. 

    As she did last month, McSally pointed to the $150 billion that the CARES Act set aside for states and cities. Nevermind that the amount is grossly inadequate to meet the needs of the cities, towns, counties and states that have seen tax revenues evaporate and unemployment spike to unthinkable levels, McSally said all that’s needed is to loosen the rules on that money.

    Why? Because the states, cities and towns that are able to get a share of that money can only spend it on COVID-19 response efforts. They can’t use it to pay for police or fire, or to fill their budget deficits, which is precisely what they need right now.

    And McSally realizes that: Much of her answer was about the work she was doing to provide flexibility to cities.

    “I was at the White House, actually, last week, talking about how important it was that the money that has already been sent out but hasn’t been distributed fully to get there quickly, but also have maximum flexibility to support communities all over Arizona,” she said.

    But that won’t be enough. The National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors last month jointly called on Congress to send at least $250 billion in direct aid to local governments. Even one of her Senate colleagues, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, is calling for a $500 billion stimulus fund for local governments.

    But rather than show leadership by pushing to help Arizona cities and towns – which face serious harm from the economic shutdown because the state motto should be “Ditat Deus (via sales taxes)” – weather the recession without interruptions to critical services, McSally is instead opting to toe the McConnell line.

    Maybe if she did, she wouldn’t be staring at what is increasingly looking like a race she can’t win.

    Jim Small
    Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.