Schumer Floor Remarks Laying Out Senate Democrats’ Proposal To Put The American People First And Demanding The Senate To Pass The Bipartisan House Coronavirus Bill Today

March 17, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor, laying out Senate Democrats’ proposal of at least $750 billion to wage war against the coronavirus and the economic crisis facing Americans. Senator Schumer also urged his Senate colleagues to pass the House-passed coronavirus legislation proposal today. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Our country is facing an unprecedented public health emergency with severe and potentially long-lasting economic consequences. As COVID-19 spreads, our local health officials and health experts tell us we are woefully unprepared for what is about to hit us. Public health infrastructure like hospital beds and masks and ventilators must be produced or procured. Testing is still not at its proper capacity. And the resulting economic downturn from this virus is already impacting millions of American families, workers, and businesses—small, medium and large alike.

 First, on a personal note: please, Americans, take care of yourselves. Avoid unnecessary contact, even though I know that so many of the meetings and gatherings and celebrations that we have planned must be postponed. It's painful but not as painful as the continuing spread of this awful virus. And a little advice—and this is not universal, but I've heard this from a number of medical people that I trust—take your temperature in the morning and in the evening. It's a good way to check that—whether you have this illness and it is progressing within you. Not all experts agree with that, but many do. In my view, it can't hurt. It's something that I am doing. I'm urging my family to do it. I'm urging my staff to do it. 

 Now to our response here in the Senate and in the Congress. 

 The response to the coronavirus will require a massive mobilization of public resources—federal, state, and local—as we have marshaled before only in wartime. It’s going to require Congress to work in a bipartisan way and with uncommon speed. And the American people too must pull together and sacrifice, in ways small and large, their normal way of life in an effort to combat this disease and limit its spread. All hands must be on deck, because the task before us is daunting—and may yet eclipse the pain felt by workers and families during the Great Recession at least for many families.

 Now, what's the first order of business here in the Senate? It’s to take up and pass the recent House bill and do it today. It would provide free coronavirus testing—that’s essential. It would extend paid sick leave, it would give food assistance, Medicaid reimbursement and expanded unemployment insurance. I understand that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle might want to amend the legislation or have written it differently if they were the ones putting it together. But I’d remind them that Leader McConnell said that he would defer to the agreement between the Speaker of the House and Secretary Mnuchin. The president has said he will sign this bill if the Senate passes it. So if we change the bill, it will go back to the House, be delayed, and delay the aid it contains for American families coping with the impact of the virus. 

So please, my colleagues, we will have other opportunities to legislate, and there will be a great need for them. But let's move this now. Let's move this now. I believe our side of the aisle will clear this. I hope the other side will and it will be on the president's desk today. 

Let’s hope and let us not delay any longer.  But there is much more to be done.

Once this legislation is sent to the president’s desk, our work is not over—not even close. We must soon move on to other very necessary measures to address the coronavirus and its widening impact on the health and wellbeing of the American people.

Today I am presenting a series of proposals to Congressional appropriators that would provide an initial infusion of at least $750 billion. Our proposal is big, it’s bold, but it is also targeted. It focuses on those Americans and the parts of the health sector and the economy most in need now: hospitals and treatment, unemployment insurance and Medicaid, loan forbearance and aid to small businesses, child care and seniors citizens. It focuses on those who need help, who don't have an income because they have lost their job temporarily, those who need help with senior citizens, with children who are not in school, or hospitals who are short of equipment and maybe personnel. That's the immediate focus. That's what we must do right now—focus on those who need help immediately and do it in a way that deals with the structural problems in the country that have made the attack of this virus more virulent, more harmful, and worse.

Now by contrast, it’s reported that the administration is proposing a massive federal bailout of industry and a payroll tax cut.

If we are going to follow up the House bill with another major economic stimulus package, which we must, our major focus cannot be based on bailing out airlines, cruises, and other industries. We must first prioritize economic solutions that are focused on workers and their families—solutions that would allow us to fix our broken unemployment system, rebuild our public health system, which is overburdened, save small and medium-sized American businesses that have a cash crunch and will go out of business, even though they were healthy a month ago because no one is buying their products or using their services. 

Let’s remember corporations are not people. People are people. And when it comes to this cascading crisis, we should help our fellow Americans first—even as we plan and execute policies that protect our economy. The administration’s proposal—if that’s the sum of it: a massive bailout of industry and a payroll tax cut—doesn’t do that.

It doesn't target the people who most need the help. And any package that we're going to do here, which must be passed in a bipartisan way, must contain large elements of what I am talking about and maybe other things as well that help the people who are in need. 

I will be sending my proposal and a PowerPoint to every one of my colleagues shortly, and I hope that they will understand the need for it. I've consulted with large numbers in our caucus, and we have broad support for these proposals and some others.

So, again, when it comes to this cascading crisis, help fellow Americans first, even as we plan and execute policies that protect our economy.

First we take actions to fight this virus. First we get lifelines to our workers, and parents, and students, and seniors, our small businesses.

If your house is on fire, the first thing you worry about is not smoke damage to the roof—you try to put out the fire. That’s what our proposal does. It means, first and foremost, we work to address the coronavirus itself, and the people most impacted. In the midst of a sprawling health and economic catastrophe, industry bailouts should not be at the top of our priority list.

Now, our proposal also does not include a payroll tax cut. That option may be premature and the wrong response to the problems we face today. There are much better ways to get money into the hands of the Americans who need it most, in the ways they need it most.

For example, in our proposal, the Senate Democratic proposal: if you’re a worker and you lose your job or can’t work, you would qualify for nearly $10,000 over six months in unemployment benefits.

If you can’t work because you get sick and your employer doesn’t provide paid sick leave, we would allow you apply for unemployment insurance and get reimbursed.

And we are also, under Senator Murray's leadership, doing more on the sick leave front.

If your hours are cut and suddenly you can’t pay your mortgage, you're going to lose your home—or are otherwise struggling to make ends meet because you choose to pay your mortgage but then can't pay other vital expenses—our proposal would let you defer your loans for six months, with no penalty, fees, or impact on your credit. We'll do the same for student loans. We'll do the same for small business loans, a six-month moratorium. That helps real people. 

If you’re a working parent and suddenly have to worry about finding a safe place for your kids to stay during the day, we would provide emergency funding to safely ramp up child care services for heavily impacted parts of the country.

And if you’re a small business owner suddenly facing cash flow problems, we would allow you to apply for low-interest loans and other forms of direct financial assistance that can offer relief quickly and allow you to overcome this problem and keep your business going in a healthy way.

And These are just a few examples. Our proposal includes much more. But it includes what is needed, and needed immediately. It includes what Governors across the country are calling for—aid to public health systems and the citizens impacted by this crisis.

And I would say to my Republican colleagues: we want to work with you, you will have different ideas, but our ideas must be contained in a package. The thing the administration has been talking about, if that's true, is not good enough at all. 

One other thing we need: as more testing becomes available, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases will inevitably increase, and the strain on our existing public health system will become even greater. We are going to need massive investments to ensure we have the capacity and necessary infrastructure to treat all Americans that need it. Our proposal addresses that as well.

So as we discuss what is to come in the next few weeks, I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and on both ends of the Capitol to review our proposal and organize our next legislative response around these ideas.

In conclusion, this crisis is going to demand more from all of us. More from an administration and a president that has been far too slow in waking up to the scale of the challenges we now face. More from a Congress that has to set aside partisan squabbles and work together. More from the American people, who must diligently follow public health guidance and endure a massive disruption to their daily lives.

I know my family is enduring that right now, and so are millions and millions and millions of families across America. We have to stick together, be strong, support one another, and we'll get through it. We will. 

We have not faced a public health crisis of this global scale in recent times. We are unsure how long the disturbance to our national economic life will last. But we Americans have overcome challenges of this magnitude before, and we will again. It will demand determination, cooperation, and sacrifice. It will demand an enormous and coordinated effort by the government of the United States at all levels to protect the health and safety of the American people. But overcome this problem we will. Together, strongly, forcefully, and smartly.