Schumer Floor Remarks On Republicans’ Months-Long Delays In Action On The Coronavirus Pandemic And The Need For The Heroes Act
July 21, 2020
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, urging
Senate action on the House-passed Heroes Act and condemning the months of
needless, partisan delays by Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans. Leader
Schumer also called for a serious bipartisan response to the ongoing pandemic
while Leader McConnell reportedly drafts an insufficient, partisan,
corporations-first bill in his office. Below are
Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here
Our country faces the greatest health
threat in a hundred years, the greatest economic crisis in seventy years. But
here in the Republican-led Senate, you’d hardly know it.
Over the past several months, even as
COVID-19 surged through the country once again, even as our states hit new
records for infections and hospitalizations, the Republican majority in the
Senate dithered and delayed on the next phase of major emergency relief.
In April, May, and June, Democrats
tried to jolt the Senate into action. But almost every time we tried to pass
much-needed legislation by average Americans, our Republican colleagues
objected. Unemployment claims reached fifty million. The number of cases topped
3.8 million as the virus re-surged over the past several weeks. More than
140,000 Americans have died. Still, Senate Republicans wanted to, in the words
of their leader, “push the pause button” and assess the conditions in the
country before providing any more relief.
The country was burning, and Senate
Republicans, led by Leader McConnell, said, let’s wait a little longer and see
how this goes.
Like President Trump, they were
hoping it would go away—ignoring all of the scientific evidence but paying
obeisance to the hard-right, which didn't want to spend money no matter what
the cost to America.
Now, it seems our Republican friends
have finally found the motivation to do another emergency relief bill. Even
they, with their heads still half in the sand, have to see the crisis the
country is in.
But instead of working with Democrats
in either the Senate or the House, Leader McConnell has decided to write the
bill behind the closed doors of his office—the same partisan, one-side-only
process that has failed time and time again to produce successful legislation
in the Senate.
Leader McConnell talked about how the
Senate led in the last three bills. I would add a word to that: it was Senate
Democrats that led. Republicans put a small, stingy, corporate-oriented
proposal before the Senate. We said no, and they were forced to add provisions
friendly to workers and average American families.
That's what happened. History knows
Yesterday, Leader McConnell once
again called for the same spirit of bipartisanship that helped us pass the
CARES Act. Well, writing a bill in your own office, without any input from
Democrats, dropping it on the floor and demanding that Democrats support it is
no one’s idea of bipartisanship.
You can't fool the American people
with these facile words that just don't ring true.
Even worse, the Republican proposal
appears destined to fall drastically short of what’s required. From all
indications, the bill will prioritize corporate special interests over workers
and main street businesses. It won’t provide hazard pay for essential workers.
It won’t provide new funding to state, local, and tribal governments, or enough
investments in communities of color that have been ravaged by the virus.
Enhanced unemployment benefits will
expire at the end of the month. According to reports, the Republican bill will
not do nearly enough to aid the 20 to 30 million Americans currently
We’ve heard Republicans debate a
credit for Americans who are going back to work, but those are the very same
Americans who will be getting a salary again. What about Americans who remain
unemployed and actually need the help?
The moratorium on evictions expires
this week. According to reports, the Republican bill won’t do anything for the
millions of Americans who can’t afford the rent and could get kicked out of
So after all the hemming and hawing
and delay—which cost America so much, months of delays—it appears that the next
Republican proposal on COVID won’t come even close to meeting the moment.
It has become clear over the last few
weeks that the reason our Republican colleagues have taken so long to put even
this inadequate proposal together is because they are paralyzed by internal
divisions among themselves and by division with the president.
According to reports in the press,
even after all these months our Republican colleagues spent “assessing the
conditions” in the country, the White House and Senate Republicans are starkly
divided about what to do.
The Trump Administration has fixated
on a payroll tax cut—an idea that will not only will harm those who rely on
Social Security, but will do nothing for the tens of millions of Americans who
have lost their jobs during this crisis. Many of my Republican colleagues
aren’t too keen on that idea, with good reason, and yet it may still be in
Leader McConnell’s proposal. Because he and the other Republicans are afraid to
tell President Trump no, even when they know he’s wrong.
Recent reports also suggest that the
administration is trying to block billions of dollars from going to the states
in order to improve their testing and contact tracing capabilities.
Can you imagine? Republicans are
arguing about whether to block funds for testing and tracing—the two most
important tools in our arsenal to manage this crisis right now.
It’s amazing. Americans are hanging
their heads in some degree of shame at the president’s actions because every
other country—developed countries, just about every other one in Europe and
East Asia— is doing much better than us. Because they had leadership and their
leadership provided, above all else, testing and tracing.
This president refuses to do it and
Republicans say nothing. They’re so afraid of President Trump, even when they
know he’s wrong, even when millions of lives are at stake, even when the
economy is at stake, they just are deathly silent.
So what do they end up doing? Well
the one thing that unites President Trump and all the Republicans is pleasing
And so, If the reports are accurate,
the Republicans are pleasing corporate interests. Not families, not workers,
not businesses. And that will not—not—get the job done.
For sixty days, Senate Democrats have
been clear about where we should start negotiations: the Heroes Act, passed by
the House, provides crucial relief for education funding, for hospitals and
medical workers, for our essential workers on the front lines, and for state
and local governments.
But right now, Republicans seem to
want to play chicken with pandemic relief and string everyone along with a bill
and a process we all know is doomed to fail.
I urge all of my Republican
colleagues to abandon their one-party, one-chamber approach before it’s too
late, and immediately begin bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on the next
round of COVID legislation.
Now, the problems don’t end with the
Republican Senate. We are living through one the greatest failures of
presidential leadership in our country’s history. Do you hear that, Donald Trump?
You have created one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in our
country's entire history, and the history books will record it that way.
President Trump cannot even model
good behavior and consistently encourage Americans to wear a mask.
When the White House coronavirus
briefings resume, President Trump should not take the podium. Every time
President Trump takes the podium, he’s a threat to public health.
Even after 140,000 lives have been
lost to COVID 19, the President claimed again on Sunday that this disease will
It has been over six months since the
start of the virus and the Trump Administration still, still lacks a national
The administration has ordered
hospitals to hide their coronavirus data from the CDC.
The president is pressuring schools
to re-open this fall without the necessary resources or guidance to keep our
Remember, President Trump, you pushed
Republican governors to reopen their states too early and just look at what
happened. You're now making the same mistake with schools. COVID surged through
those states that reopened too quickly, and many were forced to re-impose
We cannot repeat those mistakes when
it comes to our schools and the safety of our kids and our families.
So the question looms over this
chamber. When will our Republican friends stand up to President Trump and tell
him to get his act together? When push comes to shove, when people’s health and
even lives are at stake, it seems that Senate Republicans are always too timid,
too afraid to buck the president.
Will they stand up and tell him he’s
wrong to block more funding for testing and tracing? Will they tell him to stop
ignoring science, trying to hide the data, and undermining our medical experts
like Dr. Fauci?
And most of all, most
importantly: will our Republican colleagues finally step up to the plate and do
what’s right: work with us in a bipartisan way to provide desperately-needed
relief to the American people?