Schumer Floor Remarks On How, After Months Of Unnecessary Delays, Republicans’ Coronavirus Bill Fails To Meet The Needs Of The American People

September 10, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor and railed against Senate Republicans’ partisan COVID-response bill, which is laden with poison pills like corporate immunity and falls far short of the needs of the American people. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Today, the Senate will take a rather pointless vote on the latest, highly partisan Republican, emaciated COVID-relief bill.

Now, the Republican Leader claims that his bill is an attempt at a bipartisan solution. But, of course, the bill was drafted solely by Republicans—no input from Democrats—and rushed to the floor.

Mr. Leader, go look up in the dictionary what bipartisanship is. It's both parties working together, not your party doing a bill and then saying it's bipartisan. What the Leader has done, the Republican Leader, is no one’s idea of bipartisanship—not even of his own members.

And let's go over history. He's done this trick before: COVID-2, COVID-3, COVID-3.5—in each case Republicans came out, the Leader came out saying he did his own bill and said this is the only bill that will pass. Democrats are blocking it.

Democrats held strong. And what happened? We got much better bills with many of the things we wanted. We got truly bipartisan bills once the Leader determined that he had to negotiate with Democrats to pass something.

That will happen again. There's a decent chance that will happen again. But this bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills, so partisanly designed, it was designed to fail.

Now, the Republican Leader claims the vote this week that the vote this week will expose Democratic obstruction and delay. another one of these Alice-in-Wonderland-type statements.

But, of course, Democrats weren’t the ones who said let’s put the Senate on pause. Who said that?

Democrats didn’t say ‘let’s wait and see.’ Who said that?

Democrats didn’t delay for four months while the nation suffered. In fact, the House passed a bill with the broad support of Senate Democrats.

And so while the President was lying to the American people about the coronavirus, Senate Republicans were following suit in spirit. The Republican Leader himself talked about the lack of “urgency” in his caucus to address the problem.

So the idea that Democrats—who passed a comprehensive relief package through the House nearly four months ago—are the cause of delay and obstruction, is ridiculous. It's been the Republicans all along. The record shows it.

From the very beginning, from way back in March after the CARES Act passed, Democrats have insisted on continuing a program of assistance to the American people. We’ve proposed legislation to give hazard pay to essential workers, rental assistance, housing assistance, nutrition assistance, legislation to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits that have kept nearly 12 million Americans out of poverty, money for rural broadband, money to help our restaurants and our hotels. We've proposed many different things, none of which are in the Republican bill.

House Democrats passed the Heroes Act through their chamber. So far it’s the only major COVID-relief bill since the CARES Act to pass either chamber of Congress.

And meanwhile, as spring turned into summer, and as summer approached fall, Republicans dithered and delayed. They pushed their chips in with President Trump’s lot and hoped the virus would miraculously disappear and everything would be all better. Rather than use the power of the federal government to help our citizens during a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, Senate Republicans closed their eyes, crossed their fingers, hoping they wouldn’t have to do anything. Sound familiar? It's just what President Trump tried to do as well.

Here, now, in September, Republicans finally felt the public pressure to support a bill. But instead of working with Democrats on something that could pass, our friends on the other side tried to find the bare minimum that Senate Republicans could support. 

They had 20 Republican Senators, in the words of the Leader, who wanted to spend no money. In the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health crisis since the Spanish flu about a century ago, and 20 Republicans want to spend nothing, and they are the tail wagging the Republican dog.

So the Republican Leader didn't know what to do. He proposed a meager bill, a skinny bill, of $1 trillion, but even that wasn't good enough for the hard-right—the large hard-right in his caucus.

And so he put together, with spit and polish, an emaciated bill that hardly does a thing, that leaves out so many Americans, that doesn't come close to meeting the moment, so he might say he might be able to bring something on the floor with a modicum of support in his caucus.

It is beyond insufficient. It is completely inadequate.

It does not help renters keep a roof over their heads or American families put food on the table. It shortchanges healthcare and education. It does not provide a dime to help protect essential state and local services.

It is laden with poison pills—provisions our colleagues know Democrats would never support—to guarantee the bill’s failure.

The truth of the matter is the Republicans and the Republican Leader don't want to pass a bill. Too many on the hard-right, in the Senate and outside, would be angry if they actually put together a bill that could pass.

So Leader McConnell this morning demanded that Democrats name exactly what we oppose in their bill, like it was some kind of challenge.

How about broad immunity provisions? From the day he announced them, he knew it wouldn't get Democratic support.

How about Betsy DeVos’ school choice plan that would funnel money into private schools while he neglected the real needs of our public schools? Of course Democrats would oppose that. He knew that. He knows that.

The truth is: this emaciated bill is not a serious attempt at legislation or solving the real problems in our country. It’s a shame. It is one of the most cynical moves I’ve seen—a fairly transparent attempt to show that the Republicans are doing something when in fact they want to do nothing in reality.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, historic unemployment, industries struggling from one end of America to the other, and Leader McConnell isn’t searching for bipartisan progress—he seems to be looking for political cover.

Once this bill goes down, we will be right back to where we were at the start of the week: waiting for our Republican colleagues to wake up to the size of the crisis in our country and work with us on a bill that actually makes sense.

The Speaker and I have come down $1 trillion off our initial request, which was based on the real needs of the American people during this pandemic crisis. Our Republican colleagues, both the president, his minions, and the Republican Senate, have refused to budge.

But I still have some hope once this bill is defeated. If past is prologue, there's actually a significant chance that the public heat on many Republican Senators as they go back home will have them come to their senses, and they'll start negotiating with us in a serious way. That happened on COVID-2. It happened on COVID-3. It happened on COVID-3.5.

I pray and plead for the sake of our country and the people who are suffering that it will happen again. And Republicans, once they see they can't pass this emaciated, terribly insufficient, and poison-pill-pocked proposal that they'll start negotiating in reality with us. Something they have not done as of yet.