Schumer Floor Remarks On How Republicans’ Refusal To Meet Democrats Half Way Delaying Needed Support For The American People Reeling From The Coronavirus Pandemic

August 11, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor outlining how Republicans’ intransigence is delaying needed support for the American people who are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Schumer called on Republicans to get serious and work with Democrats on a real solution. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now, America is living through a crisis that exceeds anything we’ve seen in generations. Other countries were able to test their populations, isolate cases, and contain the spread of the disease. But here, the failure of the Trump administration to develop or implement a national strategy to defeat COVID, on the health front and economically,  has meant that the disease has raged through our country for seven months, is still spreading, and the economy is in very bad shape.

We have over 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. It just took 17 days to go from 4 million Americans with COVID to 5 million. Unemployment is higher than it ever was during the Great Recession. More than one hundred and fifty thousand Americans have died. Small businesses every day are closing and those that are still open are struggling. Families can’t afford to feed their children. Americans can’t pay the rent and will be thrown out of their homes.

Millions are out of work and many more worry that they will be out of work in the month or two to come. This is a huge crisis.

In this time of national emergency, Democrats believe that we must focus on the health and economic security of the American people. If we don’t address the health crisis, nothing else will matter—but we have to focus on economic security as well. We have to, to keep Americans in their homes, put food on the table, prevent them from slipping into further hardship and poverty.

This is what animated Democrats to develop a $3.4 trillion plan to finally crush the virus and rescue American families. It was based on the needs of the country (both health and economic), the needs of our schools and businesses and workers and our health care system.

We Democrats tell America: We have your back. Unfortunately, our Republican friends do not. In our negotiations with the White House, Chief of Staff Meadows and Secretary Mnuchin were unable to go above $1 trillion—and their trillion was far short of the country’s needs.

Democrats offered to come down by $1 trillion. We asked our counterparts, Secretary Mnuchin, Mr. Meadows— to come up by $1 trillion. Meet us in the middle. They said no.

So, last Friday, after our last negotiating session with the White House, I made it clear that the reason our talks had stalled was that the White House had basically declared “my way or the highway.” They were unwilling to meet us in the middle. They said that in the room.

Well, I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, because now Leader McConnell is blaming Democrats for the breakdown in negotiations using the exact same language; he said Democrats are the ones saying “my way or the highway.” Seriously, that’s what the Republican Leader, who wasn’t even in the room and won’t dare go in the room,  claims.

Let’s go over the facts, the facts. We said to the White House: we’re willing to come down by $1 trillion, will you come up by $1 trillion and meet us in the middle? The White House said no, we’re not budging.

So to whom does the logic apply? Who is intransigent? Who is really saying “my way or the highway?”

The answer is obvious. This is not a “both sides to blame” situation. Democrats are willing to compromise. Republicans are being intransigent, and will not move from their position, which is totally inadequate for the needs of America at the greatest economic crisis we have had in 75 years and the greatest health crisis in a hundred.

That’s where we are: Democrats willing to move and meet in the middle, Republicans intransigent.

Republicans declared “my way or the highway” and rather than explain or defend their position, they falsely accuse Democrats of doing the same.

Rather than trying to break the logjam, as a true presidential leader should,  President Trump sits on the sidelines and just issued a bunch of weak and unworkable executive orders.

He slashed the enhanced unemployment benefits, asking Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own to take a pay cut.

He deferred the payroll tax, which even Republicans admit would do next to nothing to help our workers or the economy, and would undermine Social Security and Medicare to boot.

And the president’s executive order on evictions is more like an executive suggestion. It doesn’t even guarantee a moratorium on evictions, it merely instructs federal agencies to “review” or “consider” one, and does nothing to help renters actually afford the rent.

Here in Congress, the Senate Republican majority delayed for four long months, failed to come up with a proposal that had the support of their own caucus, and then gave up and left it for someone else to figure out. That's why Leader McConnell is not in the room.

Facing the greatest domestic crisis of the 21st Century, where Americans are hurting health-wise and economically,  the Senate Republican majority ran down the clock, tossed up an air ball, and then subbed themselves out of the game.

Even now, as Leader McConnell claims that Democrats are blocking relief, there are 20 members of the Republican caucus—according to their own leader—who won’t vote for anything! No more relief.

A group of Republican Senators came to the floor last week to warn America about the national debt—not the health crisis, not the economic crisis, not the looming housing crisis—but the national debt. Something that concerned those same members very little when adding nearly $2 trillion to the debt to give big corporations a giant tax cut in 2017.

Listen to this one: the Senator from Wisconsin, Senator Johnson, yesterday said that “From my standpoint, the breakdown in talks is very good news. I hope the talks remain broken down.”

Let me repeat that. “From my standpoint, the breakdown in talks is very good news. I hope the talks remain broken down.” Why did he say that? Because he doesn't want to spend one more nickel, despite the huge health crisis, huge economic crisis, people losing their jobs, small businesses closing—we shouldn't spend a nickel. This is not both sides. This is one side only.

You know, when President Trump called COVID-19 a hoax, and told the country to go take bleach and other quack medicines, some of my friends here made disappointed noises.

But when the President said that the virus would just disappear, it seems the Republican Senate bought it.

After we came together to pass the CARES Act, Republican Senators pushed all their chips to the middle to bet with President Trump that the virus was going to miraculously disappear. The Republican Leader said, I’m going to put the Senate on “pause” and see what happens. Last week, he actually defended that position by saying that his delay “allowed us to learn the coronavirus didn’t mysteriously disappear.” Millions more people out of work, hundreds of thousands of small businesses closing, many more people getting COVID--and some more people dying--and now, after all that, the Republican Leader says his delay allowed us to learn that the coronavirus didn't mysteriously disappear.

So while President Trump and his aides have certainly been an impediment to an agreement, the Republican Senate is equally culpable. And the American people know it. They know Democrats have their back healthwise, economically. Republicans, so many of them are saying don't do a thing. Don't do a thing. They're glad the negotiations are broken down. We are not. 

###