Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Bipartisan $10 Billion COVID Preparedness Funding Agreement

April 5, 2022

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding a bipartisan agreement reached on $10 billion emergency supplemental funding for President Biden’s COVID-19 response. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Yesterday afternoon, I announced that Senator Romney and I had reached an agreement for a $10 billion COVID Supplemental Appropriations package.

It took many rounds of bipartisan talks—many days and nights and weekends of negotiations—but we have shaken hands on a compromise that the Senate can and should move forward very soon.

I thank the Senators on both sides of the aisle who participated in this, and Senators Burr and Blunt and Graham were involved with Senator Romney. Senator Coons gets a special shout-out because of his fierce determination to work on getting international aid done. Senator Murray as well as was very helpful in our negotiations.

The deal we announced yesterday has the support of Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, who urged Congress to work quickly to get a bill to his desk. We’re going to work hard to get that done and I hope my Republican colleagues will join us to move forward on this legislation.

There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get this funding passed. The Administration needs it right now.

We all know that our country is in great need of replenishing our COVID health response funding: putting in the work today to keep our nation prepared against new variants will make it less likely that we get caught off guard by a new variant down the line. So this is really essential to America's wellbeing. It's essential to getting back to normal. All those who decried we didn't get to normal quickly enough should be supportive of this legislation because the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be when the next variant hits.

This $10 billion COVID package will give the federal government – and our citizens – the tools we need, that we depend on, to continue our economic recovery, to keep schools open, keep American families safe.

The package we agreed to will provide billions for more vaccines, more testing capacity, and $5 billion for more life-saving therapeutics—arguably the greatest need right now for the country. These therapeutics are great drugs, but if we don't have them at the ready when the new variant hits, it will let the new variant get its tentacles deeper in our society.

This money will go a long way to keeping our schools, our businesses, our churches, our communities running as normally as possible should a future variant rear its nasty head.

Approving this package is simply the sensible, responsible, and necessary thing to do. Republicans and Democrats alike should now work together to make sure we can move this package through the chamber.

Now, while this funding is absolutely necessary it is far from perfect.

I am deeply disappointed that some of our Republican friends could not agree to include $5 billion for global response efforts. I pushed them hard to include this international funding, as of course did Senator Coons and Senators Graham and Romney, because fighting COVID abroad is intrinsically connected to keeping Americans healthy at home.

It’s not just the right thing to do to help struggling nations—though we certainly have a moral obligation to help—it is also good for our country.

So putting money overseas to prevent COVID from spreading here is important. Remember, every variant—all three variants that hit us started overseas and then came here—so that is not only humanitarian and the moral and right thing to do, but it's in our own self-interest.

I know it sometimes sounds anomalous, that sending money overseas is in our interest. But with COVID, where this germinates and start overseas and then comes to hurt us, is the right thing to do, even if you had no humanitarian interest in doing it, which of course many of us do.

If we don’t help the developing nations of the world with vaccinations and treatment, we leave ourselves seriously at risk for potential new variants.

Omicron, after all, started in all likelihood in South Africa, where today less than a third of the population is fully vaccinated.

It is thus my intention for the Senate to consider a bipartisan international appropriations package that will include funding to address COVID-19, as well as other urgent priorities like aid for Ukraine and funding for global food security.

I know that many on both sides – I mentioned the names earlier – are serious about reaching an agreement on this issue.

Nevertheless, this week’s agreement is carefully-negotiated: we bent over backwards when our Republican colleagues did not want to accept certain kinds of pay-fors, which we thought were appropriate and have always been used. But we thought it was so important to get this done that we did that. And we have to; it’s a very important step for keeping the country healthy and bringing life as close to normal in the future as we can, keeping it as close to normal as we can.

I want to thank again Senator Romney for leading the negotiations for the Senate Republicans, and working in good faith to reach agreement.

I also want to thank, as I mentioned, Senators Coons, Murray, Burr, Blunt and Graham for their help and support to reach this bipartisan agreement, and Chairman Leahy and his staff for their assistance in putting the legislation together. 

Finally, I want to thank the staff at the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office. They worked around the clock with us to score this legislation.

So, we have taken a massive step closer to getting this important funding done, and I thank everyone for their good work to reach this point.