Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Moving Forward With The American Rescue Plan To Deliver COVID Relief For The American PeopleMarch 5, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the desperately needed American Rescue Plan that will move forward today. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
Now, first and foremost, I want to thank everyone, everyone, on the floor staff here who worked late into the night, into the wee hours of the morning, to finish reading of the Senate amendment to the American Rescue Plan. The folks who sit up here on the dais come to work every day with a very serious job to do—helping the Senate come to life and fulfill its purpose under the Constitution.
I’m sure you all didn’t expect that part of their job this week would entail standing on your feet and reading dense legislative language for more than 10 hours straight. I can’t imagine that is anyone’s idea of a good time.
But, as usual, the clerks took their additional duties in stride and carried them out with professionalism and grace, finishing around 3 in the morning. And you’re all right back at your posts this morning. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service, your dedication. You are the unsung heroes of this place.
So, to the critical workers, not just those here on the dais—the clerks, the stenographers, the Capitol Police officers, the floor staff—to all of them: thank you, thank you, thank you, for your efforts yesterday, and every day.
And as for our friend from Wisconsin: I hope he enjoyed his Thursday evening.
Now, Madam President: a year ago this week, Congress began work on what would become the CARES Act—the opening salvo in a yearlong battle against what, at the time, was a strange and new disease. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated that, a year hence, we’d have lost more than 10 million jobs and over half-a-million citizens.
Even as the vaccine makes its way across the country, and hope shimmers on the horizon, millions of Americans are still struggling with basic necessities. Folks are thousands of dollars behind on the rent and utilities. Their heat, water, and power is getting shut off. More than a million Americans on unemployment insurance report that their kids aren’t getting enough to eat.
Sometimes the macro statistics get in the way, but the top end is doing very well—the top 10% or 25%—but so many other people are struggling. And if you just look at a big number, you say, everything is getting a little better. It's not for the lower half of America. It's not.
I read about one of my constituents, recently, Allilsa Fernandez, from Queens, who had a job as a home health care aide lined up at the start of the pandemic, but couldn’t take it because of her family’s pre-existing medical conditions—her mother was in the hospital with COVID. Her income went from $3,400 a month to just $1,000. “It was a huge, huge loss,” she said. “I have medications, my electric bill, the phone bill, and the other costs. Every day you have to make the decisions: Am I going to eat?”
In America that should not be the case. It shouldn't be at any time, but particularly when an evil disease robbed hardworking people of their income, their livelihood.
“Am I going to eat?”
And we're supposed to sit here and do nothing? We're supposed to say to Ms. Fernandez, and so many like her: we're not giving you the help you need?
Ms. Fernandez hasn’t been able to pay the rent since April of last year, over $16,000 worth. And this bill will help people like her, but it will also prevent people from getting into Ms. Fernandez’ place. People who work for state and local governments who might be laid off, people who work for small businesses who might be laid off.
Madam President: it is the job of this government during this evil pandemic, to assist American families, businesses, and workers like Ms. Fernandez until this pandemic is over. It's also our job to prevent others from falling into the same awful situation that Ms. Fernandez finds herself in. It is our job to hasten the day when Americans can go back to work, our country can go back to normal, our economy can come roaring back. We can reduce that awfully-high actual 10% unemployment.
That’s what the American Rescue Plan will do.
It will send direct checks to American workers and families struggling with the cost of groceries, medicine and the rent—the vast majority of Americans will get the full $1,400 we have asked for.
It will help re-open schools as quickly and safely as possible.
It will help the hardest-hit small businesses hang on.
It will keep firefighters, and teachers, and bus drivers, and sanitation workers on the job.
It will help American families stay in their homes, care for their children, put food on the table.
And it will give our country the resources, with vaccination and testing, that it needs to crush the virus once and for all.
All told, the American Rescue Plan will be one of the largest anti-poverty bills in recent history, cutting child poverty just about in half.
The entire country has gotten behind the bill. Business leaders, mayors, governors, from big cities, small towns, red states, blue states, Democrat, Republican. The clear majority of the American people—Democrats, independents, and Republicans—all support the American Rescue Plan.
It seems the only group in America who doesn’t support the American Rescue Plan are Washington Republicans.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle say that $1.9 trillion is too expensive. Well, my Republican colleagues didn’t think it was too expensive when they gave nearly the same amount in tax breaks to corporations and the ultra-rich in a healthy economy, not one that was struggling.
My colleagues claim this bill isn’t related to COVID. What hogwash. It’s a strange thing to say because most of the measures in the bill are exactly the same ideas Republicans supported a year ago, in the CARES Act, which passed without a single dissenting Republican vote.
Direct checks in the CARES Act and enhanced unemployment insurance in the CARES Act. Assistance for state and local governments in the CARES Act. Funding for testing and the vaccine in the CARES Act. Aid to schools and small businesses in the CARES Act.
All of them were in the CARES Act, which every Republican voted for. And now they’re saying the American Rescue Plan, which has the basic same structure, is not related to COVID. When we passed the CARES Act, we all thought that maybe COVID would be gone by the summer. It isn’t. We need to keep at it in the same way.
Every single Republican who voted for the CARES Act and those ideas a year ago, when a Republican was in the White House and Republicans controlled the Senate, is now saying no, it seems. But now that a Democrat is in the White House, now that Democrats control the Senate, those same ideas, which they supported when Trump was president and Leader McConnell was Majority Leader, are a “liberal wish list.” Same ideas. Who the heck are they kidding? They have no good answer.
But let’s face it: we need to get this done. It would be so much better if we could in a bipartisan way, but we need to get it done.
We are not going to make the same mistake we made after the last economic downturn, when Congress did too little to help the nation rebound—locking us into a long, slow, painful recovery, where it was years before employment was back to where it was before that crisis.
We are not—we are not—going to be timid in the face of big challenges.
We are not—we are not—going to delay when urgent action is called for.
The Senate will move forward today with the American Rescue Plan. There will be a lengthy amendment process, as the rules of the Senate require. The Senate is going to take a lot of votes. But we are going to power through and finish this bill, however long it takes.
The American people are counting on us.
And our nation depends on it.