Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Confirming President Biden’s Team And The Need To Pass The American Rescue Plan As Soon As Possible

February 25, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to pass the American Rescue Plan – a bill with overwhelming bipartisan public support that would bring relief to millions of American families. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:

The Senate is laser-focused on confirming President Biden impressive cabinet while paving the way for another round of urgent COVID relief. The two tasks will remain the top Senate priorities over the next several weeks.

By the end of this week, the Senate will have confirmed three cabinet level officials—the UN Ambassador, and the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy—and will have set up confirmation votes early next week for the Secretaries of Education and Commerce and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.

This week, Senate Committees also held confirmation hearings on scores of other nominations, including the president’s candidates for Attorney General, HHS Secretary, Interior Secretary, CIA Director, Surgeon General, and the U.S. Trade Representative.

At the same time, Senate Democrats are preparing to proceed with the urgently needed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion lifeline that will lay the foundation for economic recovery and a return to life as normal.

We have come a long way in our fight against COVID, but we still have a long way to go. Over sixty million vaccinations have now been administered across the country. Death rates are finally, finally, declining. But while the trends are headed in the right direction, more Americans are still dying per day than at any point during the worst weeks of last summer.

The same goes for our economy. While there are green shoots, our country remains 10 million jobs short of where we were last February. 10 million jobs short. That is nothing to trifle with or pass over.

Today’s report on new jobless claims was the 49th week that the number was higher than at any point during the Great Recession. Let me repeat that: today’s report on the number of Americans who are filing for unemployment benefits for the first time was the 49th week during the COVID pandemic that new unemployment claims were higher than at any point during the Great Recession.

In the words of Federal Chairman Powell, hardly a big liberal, “the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain.”

That is from a very serious, staid man, not prone to any hyperbole at all. But what he is telling us is simple. We cannot take our foot off the gas. We cannot slow down before the race is won. We must proceed boldly and decisively.

Senate Democrats will move forward on the American Rescue Plan as soon as possible. The bill will erase any doubt that the American people—businesses, families, workers—will have the resources they need until we can defeat the virus and our economy comes roaring back. The American people should expect nothing less.

Just yesterday, over 150 executives from the nation’s business community said that taking action on the American Rescue Plan is the right thing to do. The business community is firmly lined up behind this plan.

Earlier this month, over 400 mayors from both parties, Democrat and Republican, sent a letter to Congress supporting the Plan and the help it provides to keep teachers and firefighters and other essential public employees on the job.

In poll after poll, the American public overwhelmingly supports congressional action on a bold COVID relief package, a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans.

As many as seven in ten Americans support the American Rescue Plan.

There is a clear, bipartisan, nationwide mandate to act and that’s just what the Senate is going to do. A clear, bipartisan, nationwide mandate to act, that’s what we’ll do.

Now, from the start, we had hoped this effort would be bipartisan. As I’ve said before, there is nothing about the budget process that precludes bipartisanship. The same process has been used no fewer than 17 times to produce major bipartisan legislation.

But it seems that despite the historic nature of this crisis, despite the clear, pressing needs of the country, despite the support of mayors and governors and economists and business leaders from across the political spectrum, and despite the popularity of the legislation with the American people, my Republican colleagues are organizing to oppose the next round of COVID-relief.

A report in CNN suggested that Republican leaders were “maneuvering” to keep every single Republican from supporting the American Rescue plan—an exercise in pure partisanship.

We’ve started to hear the same predictable objections, in almost the same exact words, that Republicans use in response to nearly every piece of Democratic legislation. A liberal wish list! Socialism! One Republican member said that the American Rescue Plan was “to the left of Lenin.” Seriously. To the left of Lenin. Money for schools, vaccines, direct checks to struggling American families – checks that nearly every member of the Senate supported just a few months ago – now, it’s to the left of Lenin.

This kind of reflexive partisan opposition is not going to wash with the American people. It wouldn’t wash at any time, but it especially doesn’t wash during this time of crisis. The American people have all heard it before and they know that the country needs help.

All week, our Republican colleagues have been raising concerns about school closures. Well, I’ll tell you what: we all want to re-open schools. We all want them to re-open. We are all concerned about the cost of remote learning on children and parents. So are the teachers, so are the children, so are the parents.

But how about we actually give schools the funding they need to re-open as quickly and safely as possible? That funding is in the American Rescue Plan.

While our Republican colleagues are cynically attacking teachers, something they’ve done for decades, the school districts in their states are telling them they need more funding. Their school districts are telling them that they need more funding to hire extra teachers and reduce class size, to change the infrastructure of their schools to increase social distancing, to hire tutors for summer school and the fall to help our children make up for lost time.

The education commissioner for the state of Nebraska, hardly a Democratic stronghold, put it simply: “there’s a lot of damage to repair.” Our Republican colleagues want schools to re-open. So do we. But what about actually doing something to make that happen, as safely and as quickly as possible?

It seems my Republican colleagues have even taken issue with a tiny amount of funding in the bill that goes to a bridge in New York. They say, ‘look, a pork barrel earmark from the Democratic leader, totally non-COVID related!’

The truth is, this is one of the only bridges operated by the federal government. Its revenues for operating expenses have collapsed because of COVID. No one is using the bridge.

Ironically, the bridge is located in a district represented in the House by a Republican, and the request for this funding wasn’t made by me, or any Democrat for that matter. It came from the Trump Administration five months ago. I learned about it being in the bill when I read about it in the newspaper.

That’s how silly the talking points on the other side have gotten. Republicans are not happy about a small provision in the bill requested by the previous, Republican administration, so they’re going to oppose direct checks to struggling families, another round of assistance for small businesses, money for schools and vaccinations.

The argument is absurd and, we know, a total excuse.

Look, we Democrats would prefer to work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to pass this bill. We had an open, bipartisan amendment process on the Budget Resolution. We have already included many bipartisan amendments the Senate adopted into this new Reconciliation bill. The first amendment we put on the floor for the restaurants was bipartisan. And that was the first bill, I believe, that I put on the floor as Majority Leader, first amendment I put on the floor as Majority Leader, showing my intent to be bipartisan. 

But at the end of the day, we cannot let obstructionism stop us. At the end of the day, the American people sent us here with a job to do.

The bottom line is simple: we are still in a historic crisis of health and of the economy. The American people know we are in a historic crisis. And the Senate will soon take action on our plan to solve this crisis—a plan with overwhelming public support.

Our Republican colleagues will have to decide whether they will work with us to improve the legislation, or obstruct it to the bitter end.   

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