Schumer Floor Remarks: We Need To Finalize Emergency COVID Relief Now; GOP Proposal To Sabotage Future Emergency Economic Response Remains Biggest Obstacle To Delivering Relief To American People

December 19, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to finalize COVID relief legislation while a last-minute proposal introduced by Sen. Toomey (R-PA) that would restrict the Federal Reserve’s ability to respond to future economic crises stands in the way. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:

Ever since a remarkable bipartisan rescue package in March, the CARES Act, and a subsequent bill to replenish those programs, getting further aid to the American people has been a long and arduous effort.

It’s no secret that for much of the year, our Republican colleagues were opposed to spending any more money to help the American people during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Thankfully, the Republican leadership recently accepted the bipartisan gang of eight’s framework as the basis for negotiations for an emergency bill, which Speaker Pelosi and I had suggested, unlocking the current round of talks.

Even now, at the end of this painstaking process, there have been some final hurdles. Crafting a $1 trillion relief package over the matter of a few days was always going to have its difficulties, but we are running out of time. After passing yet another continuing resolution yesterday evening, we have until Sunday at midnight to secure a final agreement, draft the legislation, and move it through both chambers of Congress with alacrity.

I agree with the Republican Leader on this: we need to deliver an outcome and deliver it quickly.

Now we continue to make progress. I believe there is good faith from all four corners of Congressional leadership to finalize an agreement very soon.

Even though there are several issues that haven’t been closed out yet, we continue to make good progress on all issues but one. The number one outstanding issue is a proposal by the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania.

This proposal is a new entrant. It hadn’t been an important feature of our negotiations over the past few weeks. Only in the past few days have Senator Toomey and Senator McConnell introduced this specific provision and made it clear they feel strongly about it.

Senator Toomey’s new proposal would potentially prohibit the Treasury and the Fed from setting up new emergency lending facilities moving forward, greatly reducing their ability to respond to economic crises. Again, this is something that only materialized in the past few days and would leave the Treasury and the Fed with less authority than it had even prior to the pandemic.

Quite simply, Sen. Toomey’s proposal would do more than just prevent the next Treasury Secretary and the Federal Chair from using the emergency lending programs that saved our economy and stabilized markets back in March and April. It could potentially prevent them from setting up new facilities that look or even smell like those programs moving forward.

Democrats do not agree with it. Economists from across the political spectrum warned that Sen. Toomey’s legislation would cripple our government’s ability to respond to a deteriorating economy. The Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell, hardly a flaming liberal, is likewise strongly opposed to the Toomey provision.

Sen. Toomey’s proposal goes way beyond what Leader McConnell proposed in his HEALS Act. The worry that this Toomey proposal is intended to address is the concern that the Treasury and Fed would use their authority willy-nilly to do whatever the new President wanted. That worry is unfounded.

In order to create a new emergency facility under the present law, you’d need the support of Chairman Powell, a conservative man, and the 5 members on the Fed Board, a conservative body. Under current law, an emergency lending facility could only get approval in a true emergency. Sen. Toomey’s legislation creates barriers to emergency lending that go far beyond current law, and tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Now, publicly Sen. Toomey, I read an article in Politico, he’s expressed his concern only about winding down the emergency lending facilities established in the CARES Act. If that’s what he’s genuinely concerned about, there is a path to compromise.

But his proposal goes much further, and includes prohibitions on the Treasury and Fed’s authority that would handicap our recovery efforts moving forward—not just during this crisis but any future crisis. We cannot agree to that, nor is it what the Senator from Pennsylvania says he cares about. What he’s proposing is not about COVID or helping the American people, it’s about tying the hands of the next Treasury Secretary and the next Fed Chairman in a true emergency.

So I hope our Republican friends can agree to compromise here. Sen. Toomey’s legislation is the only significant hurdle to completing an agreement, and Republicans need to make a decision.

We are quickly approaching an all or nothing situation. Everybody needs to make a decision about whether we are going to pass this much needed relief or not, and about 11th-hour demands, and whether they are worth holding up the entire bill.

We have made great strides and great progress over a few days. You can use whatever football analogy you want: we’re on the 5-yard line or the 1-yard line, or whatever. The truth is simple: we’re close to an agreement, but we need to finalize it. We need to finalize it, and only really the Toomey provision stands in the way.

We are ready to deliver a desperately-needed extension to the historic unemployment benefits that Democrats secured in March; direct survival checks to millions of American families on the brink of financial collapse; crucial relief to our schools, our small businesses, our health care system and funding to support the production and distribution of a vaccine.

If we do our jobs, we will deliver the second largest federal stimulus in our nation’s history, second only to the CARES Act earlier this year.

It’s still not as large or as comprehensive as the country needs, or as our side wants, but it will be larger than even the Recovery Act, called ARRA, in the wake of the last financial crisis.

We’ve given ourselves already an extension to finish our work. Let’s not ask for another one. It’s time for a conclusion. We have two days to cross the T’s, dot the I’s, and come to an agreement. The country expects us to finish our work and deliver a result for the American people.