Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding Senator McConnell Put The Justice In Policing Act On The Floor Before July Fourth, Condemning Pres. Trump & Senate GOP For Their Refusal To Take Further Action On The COVID Crises, And Denouncing Republicans’ Decision To Instead Spend The Senate’s Time Confirming Radical Amid Historic Protests

June 15, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, demanding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put policing reform on the Senate floor before the Fourth of July, criticizing President Trump and Senate Republicans for their months-long refusal to take further urgent and necessary action to address the ongoing coronavirus health and economic crisis, instead focusing on confirming right-wring judges amid historic protests. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The Justice in Policing Act takes a comprehensive approach. But at the moment, our Republican colleagues seem to be on a path towards taking a much, much narrower, less inclusive approach. That is wrong.

Some Senate Republicans have endorsed individual proposals in our bill, like qualified immunity reform and bans on chokeholds, but it looks like these policies may not be included in a Republican bill. While our bill recognizes that a strong federal response is necessary to bring change to every police department in America, the Republicans—it seems—are going to leave much of the task up to the states. If history has taught us anything, particularly when it comes to civil rights, it’s that progress on civil rights has been stunted, slowed down, and sometimes stymied by letting states take the lead.

Let me repeat to my Republican colleagues: we need comprehensive and bold reform. And we need a commitment from the Republican leader to consider broad, strong police reform – the Justice in Policing Act – on the floor of the Senate before the Fourth of July.

Again, I ask our Republican Leader, I've asked before: allow the Justice in Policing Act to be on the floor. We can debate it. We can amend it. Some of you may not vote for it. But the nation is crying out for a debate on a comprehensive and strong approach—not to cherry-pick one or two items, say that we've done our job and go home.

This has been a pervasive and deep problem in America for decades and centuries. To now give it short shrift—to try and get off the hook—would be so wrong at the moment when Americans are calling for it, and the vast majority of Republican voters are calling for it.

Do we have any courage here, any strength to face the issue head-on at a time—at a moment—when we can do it? I hope our Republican friends will summon that courage, that strength, and that desire to bring real, strong, and comprehensive reform. The time for waiting is over.

Meanwhile, a global pandemic continues to assail our country and our economy. The COVID-19 pandemic did not disappear while the nation rightfully turned its attention to issues of racial justice. In fact, just as the country was preparing for the early stages of re-opening, the number of cases began to spike again in a number of states. Arizona has activated emergency plans to deal with a surge of new patients. Over the weekend, Florida reported its highest single-day number of cases. 22 states are reporting increases in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus after those numbers had been declining.

And the experts tell us it is not simply because there is no testing. There is also more coronavirus in many of these states.

A headline in Time Magazine sums it up: America is done with COVID, but COVID isn’t done with America.

It is our responsibility to deal with this problem. The trends are extremely concerning. I’ve asked the White House to have members of the Coronavirus task force, including Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, to give Senate Democrats a briefing on these recent spikes. I’ve yet to hear back. The White House continues to muzzle the most knowledgeable people.

President Trump, haven’t you learned when you don’t face the truth it hurts the country and hurts you? You tried to deny that this coronavirus was real: it was a hoax, it’ll go away in a few days, there are very few cases. And of course, it ravaged our country. And now they’re doing the same thing. President Trump is doing exactly the same thing—withholding the experts, withholding the truth. He hopes that things will disappear. That’s just not how science tells us things work.

President Trump now seems ready to dismiss these issues entirely. Appalling. He is planning big campaign rallies, asking supporters, amazingly, to sign waivers not to sue if they contract COVID from attending. I guess he worries that they might get it, but he doesn’t care—wants to have his rally. That’s the superficiality of this president.

President Trump has also moved major parts of the Republican convention out of North Carolina in order to avoid having to respect the most basic precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

And today, amazingly enough, the FDA withdrew the emergency authorization of the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against COVID. Remember, the President of the United States, only a few weeks ago, was promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine like a pharmaceutical salesman—going so far as to take the drug himself, despite not having the disease. Now, the FDA says it’s not reasonable to believe the drug is effective against COVID or that its benefits outweigh the “known and potential risks.”

That’s the president’s own department telling him to stop it—to stop telling Americans lies about the coronavirus and about what’s good and bad to treat it. It’s amazing. An agency like this one—which knows they’re not supposed to buck the president or face his wrath—still felt the obligation to come forward and tell Americans the truth about hydroxychloroquine.

This should be a warning to all Americans: you can’t listen to President Trump when it comes to health care, whether it comes to hydroxychloroquine or anything about coronavirus itself, because the experts in his own administration so often contradict his advice.

It shouldn’t need saying, but the president’s not a doctor. And yet he’s been issuing off-the-cuff medical advice from the White House podium – only to have the experts scrambling to backtrack weeks later. This is a not how a leader handles a crisis. This is not even how a normal person handles a crisis.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have relegated the issue of COVID to the backburner. As the expiration dates for several of the programs established under the CARES Act quickly approach, Leader McConnell has reportedly told his caucus not to expect another emergency relief bill until the end of July.

The emergency unemployment insurance we passed in the CARES Act is soon going to run out. The ban on evictions is soon going to expire. State and local governments are preparing to slash public services and are in dire need of federal support. Cliff after cliff after cliff faces us. Economic trouble after economic trouble after economic trouble is looming upon us very soon. Yet all these problems and all these deadlines seem to mean very little to the Republican Senate majority, which is taking its sweet time to respond to an urgent and multifaceted national crisis.

What are our Republican friends going to tell people whose unemployment insurance runs out? Tough luck?

What are our Republican friends going to tell people evicted from their homes? Too bad?

What are our Republican friends going to tell the many public servants fired because their states are running out of money and we have refused to step up to the plate? 

And what are they going to tell the nation’s parents when schools will not be able to open because we haven’t given them the adequate resources to do so?

We’re going to tell them the Republican majority is asleep at the switch during a major national crisis. But that will be of little solace. We’d much rather work together and get things done.

And even on bedrock issues of democracy—elections—the Republican majority has once again been absent. The COVID pandemic has made our elections a challenge, obviously. In Nevada, and South Carolina, Wisconsin, and most recently and most glaringly, in Georgia, voters have had to overcome significant barriers to voting. Senators Klobuchar, Feinstein and Peters have been demanding that Republican Chairs of their respective committees hold hearings on these election issues. That would be the bare minimum—the bare minimum—the Senate could do in response to widespread election issues.

So police reform, racial injustice, voting rights, a global pandemic and massive levels of unemployment: these are huge issues that demand the attention of the United States Senate. But Leader McConnell and the Republican majority just can’t seem to find the time.

On issues like COVID, racial justice, the economy, voting—the Republican majority is sadly missing in action.

Instead, Leader McConnell is pushing two right-wing judges onto the nation’s circuit courts: Justin Walker and Cory Wilson.

Mr. Walker is a man of limited judicial experience who has made it very clear he personally opposes our health care law. He called the Roberts decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act “indefensible” and “catastrophic.” Mr. Wilson, by the same token, is calling our health care law “illegitimate” and “perverse.” That’s right, folks: you need health care? You’re suffering because of COVID? well our Republican friends are nominating judges who think the law is illegitimate and perverse. In the middle of a public health crisis, the Republican majority is planning to confirm right-wing judges who oppose our health care law.

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Wilson has been one of the leaders in opposing and undoing voting rights. Here, at a time where people are protesting for racial equality, the Republican majority has the temerity to put on the floor of the Senate someone who has spent his career trying to limit the rights of people—oftentimes minorities—to vote.

Mr. Wilson has supported restrictive voter ID laws and expressed strong opposition to parts of the Voting Rights Act. That’s right, that’s right in the midst of a national movement on issues related to racial justice, Senate Republicans are trying to put a judge on the bench with a hostile record on voting rights.

So, we all know that when you have the Senate majority, it’s all about priorities. We’re all empowered here in the Senate to propose bills and amendments, ask consent to speak for as long as we want. But only the Republican leader—only Leader McConnell—gets to decide which bills reach the floor.

And for the past two months, as the economic pain from the coronavirus deepens, as the disease starts to come back, as the economy runs into trouble after trouble after trouble, as long simmering issues of racial justice and police brutality propel peaceful protests in our biggest cities and our smallest towns, the Republican Senate majority has been out to lunch.

This week, as Leader McConnell asks us to consider more right wing judges for the federal bench, it could not be more apparent.