Schumer Floor Remarks Calling For Real Action That Meets The Needs Of The American People Still Confronting The COVID Economic And Public Health Crises

August 4, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor to provide an update on negotiations regarding the next COVID relief bill and called for real action that meets the urgent needs of the American people who are still confronting the public health and economic crises brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now, I just listened to my friend, the Republican Leader. The Republican Leader is so tied in a knot by his own caucus and his president that all he can do is give Alice-in-Wonderland partisan speeches. All he can do is threaten to force sham votes that will not pass and will not answer the anguished cries for help that are coming from so many of our fellow Americans.
On the other hand, over the weekend and yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and I continued our negotiations with the White House on the next phase of COVID-relief legislation. After a week of stalled talks because Republicans could not articulate a position on hardly anything, I believe we’re making progress. We came closer together on several issues. However, we remain far apart on a number of issues, but we’re finally moving in the right direction.
At the moment, the gap between our two parties in the negotiations is about priorities and about scale. As this huge crisis engulfs our nation, Democrats believe we need a bold, strong, and vigorous response from the federal government. It will take a lot of resources. But if we don’t commit those resources now, for sure the costs will only grow in the months to come.
Democrats are fighting to meet the needs of a desperate nation.
Our Republican friends, however—President Trump, his aides, and Republicans in the Senate—do not seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation. They do not understand the needs of the country that are so great. And they are not stepping up to meet those needs. This disease has washed over our country like a great flood and Republicans are acting like we need to fix a leaky faucet.
Some of our Republican friends seem to be going through the motions, content to pass a bill—any bill—so they can check the box and go home, but a bill that doesn't come close to meeting the needs of America.
We cannot do that. We cannot pass an inadequate bill and then go home while the virus continues to spread, the economy continues to deteriorate, and the country gets worse.
No box-checking will work. We need real action.
We need a relief package that actually rescues Americans families, American schools, and American businesses; that helps defeat this evil virus and prevents our economy from sliding into a Depression.
And Democrats are going to keep fighting until we get there.
But Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are not yet awake to the enormity of the challenge. And we see it across a whole range of issues.
For example, Democrats believe we have an obligation to help every American put food on the table. Our Republican friends start negotiations by saying they don’t think we need to do anything to help hungry families and children, but maybe they can compromise and help feed a small percentage. That’s not going to cut it. Let's say a million families can't feed their kids. The Republican bill has zero, and we cover a million. To say we compromise and only cover half of them is cruel and not going to solve the problem.
We want all want to see all our schools re-open in the fall, but they need the resources and guidance to do it safely. Not 25% of the resources. Not half. Schools need funding for masks and PPE, for converting space into more socially-distant classrooms. They may need better ventilating systems. Some need to double the number of buses to prevent packing kids together on the morning route to school.  It’s going to cost money, and Republicans have to understand that. Parents must have confidence that if their school is going to re-open, it has the protocols and infrastructure in place to keep their children safe.
It’s the same with unemployment. Over 50 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with millions more filing new claims each week. We propose extending the enhanced unemployment benefits that Democrats secured in the CARES Act through the end of the year. This policy has kept as many as 12 million Americans out of poverty and boosted consumer spending, one of the few bright spots in our economy.
But Republicans are intent on slashing those benefits or letting them expire long before the crisis is over. One Republican proposal would give newly out-of-work Americans a 30% pay cut, another would give them a 33% pay cut. The Trump administration’s own Dept. of Labor warned us that these proposals, which would pay a percentage of a worker’s former wage, are patently unworkable. It will take weeks and months, if we adopt a Republican proposal, before any checks wind up in the hands of millions of Americans. And our state unemployment offices who administer this program agree.
So Republicans need to step up to the plate and work with us to find a solution that shields millions of jobless Americans from further economic hardship.
State, local, and tribal governments have fought this evil virus on the frontlines. With budgets strained, they’re at risk of shedding teachers, firefighters, bus drivers, sanitation workers and slashing public services. My good friend Senator Carper is leading a group of Democratic Senators to talk about all these issues today because Senate Republicans and the White House still do not believe in giving enough support to our state and local governments. And that's not an abstract concept. Again, that's firefighters, and teachers, and bus drivers, and health care workers. We don't care if they are in a blue state or a red state. They need the help.
We must also address our elections, and make sure that Americans can vote safely and confidently with the new challenges of coronavirus for the first time in a national election. That means they need to be able to vote in person and by mail, whichever they choose. Adequate funding for state elections systems and the post office shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is about preserving elections, making them fair, making every ballot count. That's wellspring of our democracy, and it's COVID-related and our Republican friends are resisting.
We’re still fighting to get enough funding for testing and contact tracing. It is extraordinarily frustrating that seven months into this crisis, Democrats still have to argue with our Republican colleagues about delivering enough support for testing, tracing, Medicaid, and our healthcare system.
These are just some of the many issues we need to work through. When people ask what's holding things up, it's our view that not only are our Republican friends disorganized and all over the lot, not only is President Trump tweeting about so many different things but not taking any leadership in this crisis—but most of all, that we must meet the needs of this enormous crisis and really help the American people. We need a strong, robust bill. We're working hard for that.
Our Republican colleagues inch by inch are beginning to see the light, I hope more of them will. So there are so many issues we must work through.  Democrats want to get a deal done, but we need answers for all of them, not just a few. You can't pick out one or two. Oh, we will help schools but not kids who need food. That doesn't work. That doesn't work. We'll help small businesses but not the unemployed. That doesn't work.
We have a big, broad, huge crisis: the greatest health crisis in a hundred years, the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we have a lot of Herbert Hoovers over here who don't want to do anything. A lot of Herbert Hoovers on the Republican side. Well, remember what happened then. By not meeting the crisis head-on, they created the Great Depression—the Republicans did under Hoover. Let's hope our Republican friends see the light and won't make that same mistake again.
And let me remind my Republican colleagues, when there is a crisis of this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it. Individuals alone, even with courage and sacrifice, are not powerful enough to beat it back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing of the nation.
Well, one of the main reasons holding things back, there is so many Republicans on the other side who do not believe the federal government even has a role to play. Leader McConnell has admitted—not once, not twice, not three times, but four times—that there are as many as twenty Republican Senators who will vote against any relief package for the American people.
Those Republicans—who seem to be the tail that wags the dog (that’s a pretty big tail, though, with 20 votes)— those Republicans don’t get it. We know you like the private sector over government. But there are times when there is nothing but government that can step up to the plate and solve the problem and this is one of those times.
Faced with the greatest economic threat in 75 years, the greatest public health crisis in a century, more than a third of the Senate Republican majority will not vote for anything to help the American people. Those very same Republicans gleefully voted to give a $1.5 trillion tax cut to help giant corporations pad their profit margins, but helping Americans put food on the table, go back to school safely, keep a roof over their hands, and survive a global pandemic—that is bridge too far. How out of touch can they be?
These folks cannot be allowed to dictate our policy. By their own admission, they won’t vote for anything! Remember, remember that when Leader McConnell claimed that Senate Democrats are the obstacle to progress. More than a third of the Senate Republican caucus doesn’t want to vote for anything.
So this week, our Republican colleagues have two choices. They can engage in the same kind of political theatre that preluded the CARES Act. Leader McConnell can schedule a show votes on legislation that even his own caucus won’t support, and then again in his Alice-in-Wonderland style get up on the floor and say Democrats are the ones blocking it. He can engage in the same partisan maneuvers that have resulted in failure and won’t answer the anguished cries of Americans.
As I said earlier and I want to repeat it: the Republican leader is so tied in a knot by his own caucus and his president that one of his only options is to give Alice-in-Wonderland, partisan speeches, and maybe force a sham vote that will not pass and will not answer the anguished cries for help from so many Americans.
On the other hand, Senate Republicans could roll up their sleeves, wake up to the crisis in our country, and figure out what they can support. I think we’re all ready for the Republican majority to figure out just what that is.
What’s dictating our policy and our positions on the Democratic side is very simple: the national need. Large, large, large. That’s our North Star. And we are going to keep pressing forward with the hard work of negotiations, hopeful that we can get a deal done to help the country in a time of severe crisis.