Though worried about the lingering effects of COVID-19 on businesses and the U.S. educational system, Rep. Kevin McCarthy projected optimism that the country would be "over the top of" the pandemic by the time Congress convenes in January.
Answering a wide variety of questions during an online meeting with the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, the Bakersfield Republican said he expects there will be at least one and maybe three COVID-19 vaccines as well as therapeutic treatments available to treat the virus.
He told PPIC President Mark Baldassare the economy should not fully reopen until it can be done safely but quickly added that with regard to procedures for doing so, "I don't believe that with the size of California that one size fits all."
"I think we want to follow our science, we want to trust our people," he said, adding shortly after that "as we open up we're going to have to accept that there are going to be some people that contract COVID."
The roughly 50-minute interview, broadcast live on the internet, also touched on the congressman's views on the Black Lives Matter movement, national politics and foreign interference with Nov. 3's General Election.
He said George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death in police custody earlier this year sparked civil unrest across the country, should not have had his life taken. McCarthy said he's since come to realize many other instances of injustice have taken place when video cameras were not rolling.
McCarthy said Sen. Tim Scott, a Black man representing the state of South Carolina, has become among his best friends. He said Scott told him about a time he was in the U.S. Capitol and police there stopped him and asked who he had taken his identity pin from.
"We really had a wake-up call" on race relations, McCarthy said. "We can improve drastically."
McCarthy, the House minority leader, went on to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for delays in passing a new economic stimulus measure.
"To be frank, I'm disappointed," he said. Negotiations on financial help for Americans should have been concluded by now, he said.
"I'm not being partisan but I think a lot of this falls on the speaker. Because she's holding up based on something that even Democrats do not want to hold it up."
Pelosi has said publicly she is holding out for agreement on a wider set of recovery measures. She has asserted that if there is a deal on the narrow aid package Republicans are pushing for that they will not return to the bargaining table to provide more lasting assistance.
“It is clear that the administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing,” Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said in a joint statement Aug. 12. “We have again made clear to the administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously.”
McCarthy, asked about any concerns he had about election interference by foreign countries, said the FBI has stated such efforts have been made by three countries. The congressman named just one of them Thursday: China, which he said has made clear it supports Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, the former vice president.
"The one I'm most concerned about is China," he said. That country has the world's second-largest economy and has shown it is willing to wield its wealth and influence, he added.
The PPIC's interview with McCarthy can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWMF5C1XEtY.