Schumer Floor Remarks Providing An Update On Negotiations On The Next COVID Relief Bill And Laying Out The Need For A Comprehensive Bill That Meets The Needs Of The American PeopleAugust 4, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor following a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi and laid out the need to pass a COVID relief bill that addresses the real and urgent needs of Americans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
I just heard the Republican leader speak out on the floor. Leader McConnell is busy giving partisan speeches, while for the last two and a half hours, Speaker Pelosi, myself, Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin, and Chief of Staff Meadows were sitting in a room, working hard, trying to narrow our differences and come to an agreement.
We all want to come to an agreement. We know the gravity of the situation demands it and we will continue to work and work at it. We had a productive meeting. We narrowed some differences. Frankly, there are many that remain. But we must, we must not give up. We must not resort to stark partisanship. We must come together and find a solution.
If I had to characterize the major difference between our side and the Republican side: we believe the gravity of the situation, the economic problems, the health problems demand a bold, strong, vigorous solution by the federal government.
We believe we must meet those needs, and it will cost money. But mark my words: if we spend less money now, it will cost us more money later.
We hear from our schools. They very much want to open. We hear from the parents of children. They very much want their kids to go back to school, but they want to do it only safely. It costs a lot of dollars to make a school safe in this COVID crisis. Not only the money for masks and PPE, but you can't sit two kids next to each other on a bus, so there have to be many more bus routes.
Because some of the learning will be distanced, you need hot spots and a lot of kids don't have them in their homes. You may need new ventilating systems because COVID demands it for a healthy classroom. You may need to convert gymnasiums and cafeterias into new classrooms and may need teachers to teach longer and you may even need more teachers.
These are very important things to do if we want to open our schools safely, but they demand real dollars.
And as we sat in the room today, we each discussed our views as to how many dollars are needed.
Same thing with food safety. We Democrats believe that during this crisis, children and adults should not go hungry. And we've proposed some money to make sure that the SNAP benefit increases—that's helping people feed themselves. That there's enough money to feed the kids who used to get school lunches and school breakfasts, that there's enough money for unemployed people at food banks so they can feed their families. That costs money.
The Senate Republican proposal here proposed a tax break it for a three-martini lunch and $20 billion slush fund for big agribusiness, but no money for these kids who need to be fed.
That's a significant difference. There are many, there are many.
We Democrats believe strongly that we have to have free and fair elections, that the mail must be delivered in a timely way because so many more people are going to vote by mail. So many more polling places need to be set up. Because of COVID, you can't be close together.
There's a long list of things that are needed. And the good news is our Republican colleagues agree with a few of them. But some they don't agree with and we are discussing why we think they need them. And they'll counter with us in the room, Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows. But the discussion is necessary. The discussion is productive, and we will continue it.
But again, the anomaly of the Republican leader making a partisan speech on the floor while we—Speaker Pelosi, myself, Mnuchin, and Meadows—are trying to negotiate and move forward is really the contrast that I think most people see.
So let's keep moving forward. There's a real crisis here.
There are people who are unemployed. They don't deserve a pay cut as they go forward.
There are small businesses who need help desperately.
There are schools that have to open.
There are state and local governments that must have funding and this is not an abstract concept. These are firefighters, and these are teachers, and these are health care workers, and these are bus drivers, and these are sanitation men and women. If the state and local governments don't get money, they're going to get laid off and services are going to be much worse.
And again, we have a wide disparity on what kind of dollars and how to deal with testing.
It's our belief this administration's program on testing has been a failure. That we don't have enough testing and that we have to redouble our efforts to put more money in testing.
So these discussions are continuing. It gives me hope that we can reach an agreement. We will keep at it and at it and at it, because the nation demands a solution—a bold, comprehensive solution that will slay this awful virus and its consequences once and for all.