Schumer Floor Remarks Ahead Of Meeting With New Postmaster General And On The Need To Pass A Coronavirus Relief Bill That Meets The Needs Of The American PeopleAugust 5, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor ahead of a meeting with Postmaster General DeJoy regarding the importance of securing funds for the Post Office amid nationwide reports of delays. Senator Schumer also spoke regarding the need to pass a COVID-relief bill that meets the real and urgent needs of the American people. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Negotiations on the next round of COVID-relief continued yesterday and will continue again today. Speaker Pelosi and I are making progress with the White House but we remain far apart on a number of issues.
As I mentioned yesterday, the fundamental disagreement between our two parties is the scope and severity of the problem. This is the greatest economic crisis America has faced in 75 years, the greatest health crisis in 100. There must be a relief package commensurate with the size of this historic challenge.
A skinny package—a package that doesn't solve so many of the problems America faces—would hurt the American people, and we cannot have it. But our Republican friends are wedded, ideologically, to the idea that government shouldn’t take forceful action; that we should leave the welfare of the American people to the whims of the private sector. It just doesn’t work like that, especially in a time of national emergency. The private sector cannot do it.
So while we have started to generate some forward momentum, we need our partners in the White House to go much further on a number of issues. Let alone the Republican Senate, where 20 or so Republicans—by the Majority Leader's admission—don't want to do anything.
One example: the administration has finally come around to the view that we should extend the moratorium on evictions, but they continue to refuse to provide actual assistance to renters themselves. What good does that do? We can prevent Americans from being kicked out of their apartments for another few months, but if they can’t pay the rent, they’ll be right back at square one when the moratorium expires, with even more unpaid bills piled up. Extending the moratorium only solves one half of the problem.
Republicans continue to stonewall support for state, local, and tribal governments, who have already shed more than a million public service jobs this year and will continue to lay off teachers, and firefighters, and more if Congress does nothing. In the early days of the crisis, state and local governments fought this disease basically on their own. The Trump Administration couldn’t be bothered to coordinate a national response or supply them with the necessary resources. And now Leader McConnell and others on the Republican side say our states should just go bankrupt.
They put zero into their proposal for state and local. I'd like Republican Senators to go home and tell their governors, tell their mayors, tell their county executives, we want zero for you. That’s what our leader is for. Well, it’s not acceptable.
On unemployment insurance, a few Senate Republicans have belatedly accepted the view that we should extend the enhanced benefit at $600 for an extended period of time, as Democrats have proposed and voted for in the House. Of course many Senate Republicans, most Senate Republicans, still object to that, but at least a few have come around. At the moment, however, the White House is not there. And we are not going to strike a deal unless we extend the enhanced unemployment benefits which have kept nearly 12 million Americans out of poverty.
The same goes for health care: testing and tracing. How is it that everyone in the White House can get tested, everyone in the NFL can get tested, but average Americans still cannot access tests easily or get results back fast enough? More than seven months into this crisis, this administration does not have the adequate capacity for testing and contact tracing. It is a shocking failure on the part of the Trump Administration and the Republican Senators. So Democrats are insistent that we provide enough resources to finally slow the spread and defeat this disease—the single most important thing to our recovery.
The American people know that the Trump administration and the Republican adherents in the Senate are to blame for this huge failure in testing and tracing. They demand we act and act fully now—not with some half-baked, poorly funded plan that won't do the job, which is where the administration seems to be at right now.
And Democrats are insistent that every American should be able to vote this November, safely and confidently, in person or by mail. COVID has affected how we will vote. Many more will vote by mail. There will be a need for polling places, maybe more of them. And a need to space people out as they vote. We are not going to stop fighting until state election systems and the post office, which is part of getting the mail there on time, get the resources that they need.
Elections are a wellspring of our democracy, and the only answer as to why neither the Republicans in the Senate nor the White House want to do anything about it is they fear a free and fair election. That is inimitable to the core of this Republic. We're going to keep fighting. And there have been alarming reports about recent failures at the post office; about residents in Michigan who received their absentee ballot only the day of the primary or just before. And reports that in Pennsylvania families have not gotten their medicine or paychecks for 3 weeks or more. The postal service is vital, not just for elections, but every single day.
The new postmaster general—a big donor to President Trump, which many believe is his main qualification as to why being chosen—enacted new guidelines at the Post Office that experts say will cause severe delays in mail delivery, and then refused for weeks to even hold a phone call with Democrats, including myself, about these issues.
I called three times. Mr. Dejoy evidently didn't have concern to call back when I was concerned about mail delivery in New York and the rest of the country. So we’ve insisted to Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows on meeting with Mr. DeJoy, which will take place later today. We need to resolve the problems at the post office. There is lack of funding and there are new regulations that get in the way to the timely delivery of mail. We must resolve those in a way that allows mail to be delivered on time for the election and for the necessities that people need.
Each and every one of these issues is critical, and there are many more. We need answers and movement on all of them, not on one or two. But some of our Republican friends seem content to pass a bill—any bill—so they can check the box and go home.
We cannot do that. We cannot agree to an inadequate bill and then go home while the virus continues to spread, the economy continues to deteriorate, and the country gets worse. So we’re going to keep slogging through, step by step, inch by inch, until we achieve the caliber, the extent, the depth and breadth of legislation the American people need and deserve and want.
In stark contrast, the Republican leader has decided he’d rather just lob partisan pot shots from the Senate floor each morning than rather join in productive negotiations. It is difficult to listen to the Republican leader spin such a malicious fiction about why Congress has yet to pass another round of relief when he can't even sit in the room with us and negotiate, when he can't even create a modicum of unity in his disturbingly divided caucus.
For three months, Senate Republicans put the Senate on “pause” when it came to the coronavirus.
As COVID spread through the South and West, as states hit daily records for new cases and hospitalizations, as 50 million Americans filed for unemployment…the Senate Republican majority merrily hummed along as if it were living in a different universe.
Leader McConnell scheduled confirmation votes on right-wing judges. The chairmen of the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees held hearings on the president’s wild conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and conducted desperate fishing expeditions hoping to dig up dirt on the family of the president’s political rival. When the Republican majority did put legislation on the floor, it wasn’t even remotely related to COVID.
All through that time, Democrats came to the floor to practically beg our colleagues to consider COVID relief legislation. We asked consent to pass urgent relief no fewer than 15 times. And every single time, Republicans blocked our requests.
Once Senate Republicans finally decided to write a bill, it was the legislative equivalent of a dumpster fire. Republicans bickered amongst themselves for over a week and half before finally giving up. They didn’t even release a coherent bill, just a series of nibbling proposals, rife with corporate giveaways and K-street carve-outs.
Republicans proposed a tax break for three-martini lunches but no food assistance for hungry kids. $2 billion to build a new FBI building to boost the value of a Trump hotel, but not a dime to help Americans afford the rent.
And then, to top it all off, almost as soon as the Senate Republican plan on COVID was released, it became clear that even Senate Republicans didn’t support it. President Trump called it “semi-irrelevant.” “Semi-irrelevant” is what President Trump called the Republican proposals. Leader McConnell basically gave up, and left Democrats and the White House to negotiate the next bill.
So it strains reason for Leader McConnell to criticize those of us who are actually engaged in negotiations while he is intentionally staying out of them. His Alice-in-Wonderland rhetoric, flipping everything on its head and accusing the other side of the sins that Leader McConnell, is in fact, committing, is extremely counterproductive. Since Senate Republicans clearly cannot reach a consensus, any agreement is going to require a lot of Democratic votes. Suffice it to say, the Republican leader’s rhetoric and positions are not helpful in that regard.
While Republican leadership continues to sit on the sidelines, Democrats are in the room, working hard. That’s what the American people expect of us. They want to see us working to get something done in this time of extraordinary challenge.