From Subject Received Size Categories Leader Schumer's Press Office (Schumer) Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Pass COVID Emergency Survival Legislation 2:36 PM 212 KBDecember 21, 2020
Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the urgent need to pass emergency COVID survival legislation. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now, every day it seems, for the past week or so, I come to the floor ready to talk about the merits of the bipartisan legislation we’ve been drafting, not wanting to be critical at all.
And then I listen to the Republican Leader. The Leader’s remarks just about every day this week as he opens the Senate have been so nastily partisan, and in so many ways false, that I have no choice but to correct the record as the Democratic leader.
The Republican leader’s accusation that the blame for this bill’s delay lies totally on one side is just ridiculous. It’s Alice-in-Wonderland thinking. It defies all the facts as to what we have seen. And then his comparison—between the agreement we’re voting on today and the most recent Republican offer—is absurd. The two bills are nothing alike, and I’ve had to point out several times.
Now I have a chart here and I’d ask unanimous consent it be entered into the record.
I am just going to read from it, comparing the new bipartisan relief agreement from December 1st GOP proposal of Leader McConnell.
How about direct payments? This bill has $600 per individual, $1,200 per married couple, $600 per child dependent. Many of us did not think that’s enough but it’s in the bill.
You know how much was in the Republican Leader's proposal? Zero.
Unemployment insurance: this bill that we're voting on has $300 per week of enhanced U.I. and other program extensions through March 14th.
What does the Republican Leader's bill have? Zero enhanced U.I., program extensions end January 31st.
This bill has $13 billion in SNAP. The Republican Leader's bill: zero.
This bill has $25 billion in rental assistance. The Republican leader's bill: zero.
This bill has $45 billion in transportation for both airlines and mass transit—and buses and airports and highways. What does the Republican leader's bill have? Zero.
This bill has, very importantly, money for community development financial institutions and majority institutions, $12 billion. What does the Republican Leader's bill have? Zero.
S.B.A. Grants: $20 billion this bill. The Republican Leader’s bill, zero. Debt payments and enhancements for S.B.A.: this bill, $5.5 billion. The Republican bill, zero. SAMSHA funding for mental health and substance abuse: this bill has $4.25 billion. The Republican Leader's bill had zero.
N.I.H. COVID research: this bill has $1.25 billion. The Republican Leader bill, zero. Broadband—so homes can get broadband—this bill has $7 billion. The Republican Leader bill, zero.
The list could go on.
There is a dramatic difference between the two bills. And we all know as well that the Republican Leader, who blames Democrats for delay, said for several months the Senate should be on pause. As Democrats were demanding more action, the Republican Leader was unmoved. The Republican Leader’s admission was that twenty Republican Senators wanted to do nothing more at all. When he finally proposed legislation, it was completely partisan, insufficient, and littered with poison pills.
I forgot to add one thing that that was in the Leader’s bill but not in this bill—the broad corporate liability immunity provision, which the Senator from Illinois tried to straighten out. Another huge difference, a poison pill.
So when the Leader finally proposed legislation because of public pressure to do something, it was partisan, no Democratic input, zero, insufficient, much too little in so many areas, as I mentioned. And littered with poison pills, designed to ensure the bill would fail: most notably, a provision to give corporations, no matter how egregious their behavior, sweeping immunity from legal accountability.
Leader McConnell said on the floor that, for Republicans, corporate immunity was a red line. And he blames Democrats, as he did again today for why this bill is being debated now? It's just turning truth on its head. It is like Alice in Wonderland.
And even in these most recent negotiations, the Republican majority made an 11th hour demand that had nothing to do with helping people during this pandemic, but rather sabotage the incoming Biden administration’s recovery efforts and restrict the Federal Reserve’s ability to save jobs and right the economy in a time of crisis.
Thankfully, the agreement we reached contains neither the Leader’s corporate immunity provision nor Sen. Toomey’s last-minute provision to handicap the Fed’s authority to stabilize the economy in a crisis. And it will do a whole lot of good besides some of the programs I mentioned.
Look, after months of tense and difficult discussions, we have this agreement. It’s not as large as Democrats want, it’s certainly larger than what Republicans want. That’s the nature of compromise.
It does us no good to end the year with the kind of bitter, partisan fighting that has defined too much of the year. In a new session and under a new Administration, we can and should do better.
Because our job is far from over.
The bill today is a good bill. Today is a good day. But it is certainly not the end of the story, and it cannot be the end of the story. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough doesn’t know what’s going on in America. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough hasn’t heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small business owner on the brink of ruin.
By all rights, there should be direct assistance in this bill for state and local governments. The checks should be larger. While this agreement includes a new and larger forgivable PPP loan for restaurants, we need to do much more for restaurants. We have bipartisan legislation to deliver the relief that’s truly needed, the Restaurants Act, that regrettably did not make it into this legislation. We must do all we can to save restaurants and I will not stop fighting until we pass the Restaurants Act into law.
And this bill cannot and will not be the final word on Congressional relief from the coronavirus pandemic. This is an emergency, survival package. And when we come back in January, our number one job will be to fill in the gaps left by the bill, and then get the economy moving with strong, federal input.
Still, the significance of this package should not be underestimated. It will be the second largest bill—second largest federal input—in the history of our country. Second largest amount of federal dollars going to the people ever. The times demand it. Even some of our conservative Republican friends will vote for it. And it’s good we have it.
For much of the year, it looked unlikely that it would ever get done. And our success today, our ability to pass this bill today, should give us confidence we can do more. We can end this year on a rare note of optimism.
Now, Queen Elizabeth every year gives a talk to her subjects about the status of the monarchy, about the British Royal family. And, in a very challenging year, she called that year annus horribilis – a horrible year. Unlike 1992, which was the year Elizabeth referred to with the problems of Charles and Diana, this year has been an annus horribilis, not just for Great Britain and the royal family that she was talking about, it has been an annus horribilis for the entire world.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 70 million people across the globe. Another 500 million have gone likely undiagnosed. 1.6 million people—1.6 million—have died, 20% of whom have been Americans: more than 315,000 Americans, more the entire population of Pittsburgh or St. Louis, more than all the American combat deaths in World War II.
The September 11th attacks to my fair city shaped much of the first decade of this century. In 2020, our dear country has suffered the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every day for 106 days in a row.
We have lost so much.
We have missed holidays and reunions, retirements and graduations, bar mitzvahs and confirmations, weddings and funerals. Trapped in our homes, our companions were isolation and loneliness and the faint glow of tiny screens. The image of seeing people on a screen watching their loved ones pass away when they can’t be with them will stay with us forever. Doctors had to stack iPads in waiting rooms for the end-of-life conversations. How tragic – how awful.
Cars lined up bumper to bumper for food assistance. Grandchildren, wrapped in protective gear, waved goodbye to grandparents from across the silence of a hospital room.
It has been a horrible year—an annus horribilis. And yet, here at the very end, finally, there is hope not just one, not just two, but three strong beacons of hope.
One: soon, many Americans will have the vaccine. Two: Joe Biden will become president, and he not only has the experience but the empathy to handle the COVID-19 crisis will replace a man who has shown no capacity or even interest in doing so. And three: we are on the verge of passing another historic bipartisan relief bill to deliver emergency assistance during a time of national emergency.
So three beacons of hope vaccine, a new administration, and a bill that will help in an emergency.
Very soon, our country will close the book on the most chaotic presidencies in recent history. Joe Biden, an experienced leader and a person of fundamental human decency, will soon become the 46th President of the United States. Kamala Harris, my good friend and hard-working colleague, will become the first woman, the first Black person, the first Asian-American to ascend to the Vice Presidency of the United States. Together, they will return competency and compassion to our government after four long years of division and demonization that people have gone along with.
And even though this disease has not been vanquished yet, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a vaccine. Everyone should appreciate how miraculous that truly is. It usually takes between five to ten years to develop a new vaccine. Five to ten years. It took American doctors, biochemists and medical researchers less than ten months to produce not one but two viable vaccines for the coronavirus.
The discovery of a vaccine in a single calendar year is the crowning scientific achievement of the 21st Century. The medical Manhattan project of our times. It is a reminder that when we work together, and persevere, and sacrifice for one another, nothing, nothing is beyond our capacity as a nation.
The same resilience and innovation and fortitude that saw our country through its darkest hours has emerged once again. COVID-19 has changed our country, but it has not changed our character.
America is the night-shift nurse fashioning protective equipment from shoelaces and a sheet of vinyl. America is a restaurant owner who sent meals to the frontline workers for free. America is the home-stitched masks sent to friends and family. It is the metallic clang of pots and pans celebrating essential workers. America is the grocery store clerk and the bus driver and the plasma donor and the lab technician, late at night, poring over the results of a clinical trial. It is the Brooklyn doctor, 62, on the verge of retirement, who for two straight weeks worked day shifts at the ICU and night shifts at the nearby hospital before finally succumbing to the disease himself.
Last week, the first American—a nurse in Queens—was vaccinated against COVID-19. Many millions will soon follow. Eventually, our businesses will reopen, our economy will reopen, life will reopen. We will travel and worship and send our kids to school and see our friends and be together again. It won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next week, or even next month. But it will happen. Not because we merely waited long enough; not because we were patient; but because we persevered.
Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future. To survive this dark winter until the spring thaws the ice. Our job is to do what’s necessary—pass this bill, pass another stronger bill next year, whatever it takes—to hold our country together until, until we eradicate the awful scourge of this disease.
At the end of this annus horribilis, this horrible year, let’s give the American people another reason to hope.