Schumer Floor Remarks As Republican Senator Blocks Needed Assistance To State And Local Governments To Continue Essential Services Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

June 29, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today took to the Senate floor with Senate Democrats to attempt to immediately pass desperately-needed assistance to state and local governments struggling to provide essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) objected to the unanimous consent motion. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now, we are a long way off from beating COVID-19, and our communities need federal relief as soon as possible. The disease continues to spread at an alarming rate across much of the South and West, and our country is facing probably the greatest economic challenges since the Great Depression.

And yet, for over two months, the Republican Senate has chosen to delay, delay, delay. First, Leader McConnell said another COVID-relief bill was “likely” in June. Now, the earliest it could happen is in late July, and even then, the Republican Leader said he wants to “assess the conditions in the country” first before writing a bill “in his office.”

I make two points: conditions in the country are terrible. You don't need to wait to assess them. We must act now.

And second, if the Leader thinks writing a bill in his office will produce results, I ask him to look at COVID-2, 3, and 3.5—where in each case he wrote a bill in his office without Democratic input, and we insisted that we be included by not going forward. We got a much better bill. We hope that's what he will do at the outset: work with us in a bipartisan way and work with the House as well to get something done.

The time for waiting, the time for partisan posturing is over. We are on the precipice of several deadlines that require immediate action from Congress; there are several cliffs, but perhaps the most dangerous is the cliff for state and local governments—so many whom are finalizing their budgets before the new fiscal year on July 1st, in two days.

State, local, and tribal governments have already laid off more than 1.6 million workers and are being forced to cut critical services. At least 25 states have lost a minimum of 20,000 jobs. And apropos the point my colleague from Oregon made: 25,000 jobs state and local in Florida, what are we saying to them? It’s 29,000 lost jobs in Kentucky, what are we saying to them? 93,000 in Texas, what are we saying to them?

These are not abstract numbers. They are teachers, firefighters, bus drivers, and health care workers, and more. It includes so many public health workers essential to contact tracing so we can lick this disease once and for all.

Without federal support, those job losses will continue, and the loss of vital public services will continue as well.

So far, the Senate Republican response to this potential crisis has been a giant shrug of the shoulders. Leader McConnell had once said that he “would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” That’s the Republican leader telling states – red and blue alike – why don’t you go bankrupt?

That is not acceptable to Senate Democrats. So tonight, I’m joining Senators Wyden, Menendez, and Hassan, and Carper, and Gillibrand, and Murphy to ask the Senate’s consent to pass emergency federal funding so that state, local, and tribal governments can keep fighting the pandemic and keep their communities safe.

Unless people think this is a blue issue or red issue, I ask unanimous consent that the following letter be placed in the record.

This letter is from the “Big 7” national associations that represent the governors, Democrat and Republican, mayors, Democrat and Republican, state legislatures, Democrat and Republican, the county leaders, Democrat and Republican, the city managers—they all got together in a bipartisan way—as this chamber should do—and wrote the Senate a letter pleading—pleading—for federal support and warning of the dire consequences of the delay.

Let me read a passage from their letter to Leader McConnell and myself, copied all Republican and Democratic Senators. And there are many organizations from red states signing this letter.

“Previous federal bills,” this is what they wrote, “responding to COVID-19 provided important support… yet none allow for the replacement of billions of lost revenue due to COVID-19. More robust and direct stimulus is needed for state and local governments to both rebuild the economy and maintain essential services in education, health care, emergency operations, public safety and more… Months have gone by and our communities continue to suffer. Americans have a history of standing together in times of crisis and must do so now.”

Let me repeat those words for every member of this chamber to hear. “Americans have a history of standing together in a time of crisis and must do so now.”

I urge my Republican colleagues to listen to those words. These are your states, your cities, your mayors, your counties, your state governments, pleading with you for relief. Not in a month. Not later this year. Right now.

So I hope my Republican friends will listen to their voices, the voices of their constituents and state leaders, and consent—tonight—to passing federal support for state, local, and tribal governments. Blocking it would send a terrible signal to the American people that this Senate, this Republican-led Senate, is unwilling to act with any urgency to pass the relief that our states desperately need.