Schumer Floor Remarks On Republicans’ Months-Long Delays In Action On The Coronavirus Pandemic And The Need For The Heroes Act

July 21, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate 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 that.
 
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 unemployed.
 
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 their apartments.
 
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 corporate interests.
 
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 “disappear.”
 
It has been over six months since the start of the virus and the Trump Administration still, still lacks a national testing strategy.
 
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 kids safe.
 
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 restrictions.
 
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?
 
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