Schumer Floor Remarks On How Senator McConnell’s Emaciated Proposal Fails To Meet The Needs Of The American People As They Continue To Struggle Through The COVID-19 Economic And Public Health Crisis

September 8, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senator McConnell’s emaciated proposal and how it fails to meet the needs of the American people. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

In the three weeks since the Senate last met, America eclipsed six million confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly 190,000 Americans have died, and those totals climb by tragic amounts each day. Too many business remain closed. Schools begin the year under a dark cloud of uncertainty. And our economy faces the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. The United States is 11.5 million jobs short—11.5 million—of where we were at the start of February, and the number of jobs that have been permanently lost is rising at alarming rate.

All of this reflects a tragic reality: President Trump has led the worst response to COVID-19 of any nation on Earth. It is what it is.

The economic pain of the pandemic was mitigated by our action in March, when Democrats insisted on a robust stimulus bill that became the CARES Act. One of our policies included in that bill, enhanced unemployment benefits, has kept nearly 12 million Americans from poverty. Those benefits have now mostly expired and the stimulus provided by the CARES Act has been exhausted. The pandemic, and economic hardship for millions of American workers and families, however, is ongoing and painful.

Speaker Pelosi and I have been trying to negotiate with the White House on another round of relief. It has been arduous. Democrats offered to meet our Republican colleagues in the middle, but the White House has refused to make any significant compromise.

Here in the Senate, the Republican Majority Leader has kept the chamber on pause while the nation suffered. When they tried to draft a relief package in July, Senate Republicans flailed for two weeks before announcing a series of separate, incoherent proposals that lacked the support of—surprise—Senate Republicans. It was so unpopular within the Republican conference, Leader McConnell never even brought it up for a vote.

Now, after more than four months of long inaction, after sitting on the sidelines while Democrats tried to negotiate with a recalcitrant White House, Senate Republicans are finally—finally—realizing the damage their pause has done to the American economy and our nation’s health.

As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems in our country.

Republicans are going to cut their original, inadequate $1 trillion “skinny” bill in half--maybe more--and put it up for a vote this week. Of course, it had no input—zero input—from Democrats. Completely partisan. In this chamber, you need bipartisanship to get anything done.

Republicans call this a “skinny” or “targeted” proposal but it would be more appropriate to call it “emaciated.” Shockingly, as the pain from this pandemic gets bigger and bigger, Republicans think smaller and smaller. They're moving backwards.

Their proposal is completely inadequate, and by every measure, fails to meet the needs of the American people—with no money for rental assistance, nutrition assistance, the census, safe elections, and so many other things. The bill amazingly will do almost nothing to help state and local governments that have already been forced to cut a million jobs since the pandemic began. This bill actually goes backwards from the last Republican proposal. It does not even allow states to use existing relief funds to cover lost revenues.

Even worse, this latest and sorriest Republican proposal is laden with poison pills that our colleagues know Democrats would never support.

The bill doesn’t provide enough funding to help our schools re-open safely—not close to what school superintendents say they need—but it includes funding for a partisan school choice program long pushed by hard-right conservatives and Secretary DeVos.

It provides immunity to corporations who put their workers in harm’s way, which, sadly, seems to be the only thing that Republicans can consistently agree on.

It even includes a provision that could fast-track coal mining operations, because God forbid our Republican friends miss an opportunity to reward corporate polluters in their coronavirus relief bill.

The Republicans call their bill “targeted.” Maybe they mean it’s targeted to corporate donors?

The presence of these poison pills should remove every shred of doubt that the true intent of this bill is anything but political. If Leader McConnell and the Republican Majority were trying to achieve a result, they wouldn’t draft such a lame, partisan bill, loaded with poison pills, and rush it to the floor.

The truth is: if you wanted to draft a bill that was certain to fail, this is it. This is one of the cynical moves I have ever seen.

We all know what’s going on here. Leader McConnell had to create the most paltry, partisan, cynical bill because he has 20 members of his caucus who don’t want to support anything. By his own admissions, they want zero dollars. So Leader McConnell keeps whittling down the Republican proposal until he can find something—anything—that he can claim his party supports.

He had to throw in the right-wing’s favorite goodies to sweeten the pot to even approach the number of votes in his caucus to make it look like a Republican bill that had broad support.

Leader McConnell knows this bill won’t pass; he knows that most of his members don’t want it to pass. And amazingly, he seems to be happy with that situation. This is one of the most cynical moves that I have ever seen—in the middle of a pandemic, when Americans are crying out for relief.

The political exercise on the Republican side bears no relationship to the needs in our country. It has nothing to do with our states, our workers, our families, opening up schools safely, or what health care workers really need. It has everything to do with finding the bare minimum that Senate Republicans can support.

Facing the greatest economic crisis in seventy-five years, and the greatest health crisis in a century, Leader McConnell isn’t searching for bipartisan progress—he is looking for political cover.

As we begin the final work period before the November elections, Democrats will keep pushing for a bipartisan, bicameral agreement that actually meets the urgent needs of the American people. For the good of the country, I hope, I pray my Republican colleagues will join us in that effort.