Schumer Floor Remarks On Senate GOP Chasing Conspiracy Theories Instead Of Working To Address The Economic And Public Health Crises Caused By Coronavirus

May 20, 2020

Schumer Also Says Trump’s Celebration Of 1.5 Million Positive COVID-19 Tests Is Sick And An Insult To Every American Who Has Lost A Loved One To Evil Disease

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling on Senate Republicans to drop their focus on right-wing conspiracy theories to instead pursue bipartisan talks that address the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to afflict our country, businesses are suffering, families are struggling to pay the rent, millions of Americans are filing for unemployment every single week, and tens of thousands of Americans are dying. Every aspect of American society has been changed by this crisis. Except perhaps, the Republican Senate.

Here, it’s business as usual. Leader McConnell has spent three weeks of the Senate’s time largely on nominations, only one of whom is directly related to COVID-19. Not one bill on the floor of the Senate having to do with COVID-19 in the entire month of May. The leader has put none on the floor.  Democrats have had to relentlessly pressure our colleagues to hold even the most routine oversight hearings on the coronavirus. Coronavirus is raging. People are upset about how the administration is implementing it, and we don't have hearings until we push, push, push for them, and then they happen few, far between, and too late.

It would be one thing if the Republican majority was doing this other business while negotiating with Democrats on the next phase of emergency relief. But Republicans are not negotiating about the next phase of emergency relief. Many of my colleagues on the other side have said that more relief just isn’t necessary. The Republican leader rejected legislation from the House of Representatives before the bill was even drafted. A knee-jerk, partisan response at a time when we should be working together to help our suffering constituents.

For the life of me, I don’t know why it’s been so difficult to get our friends on the other side to focus on an ongoing national crisis. And it appears that the lack of focus, the lack of urgency, the lack of compassion from the Republican majority is about to get even worse.

Today in the Homeland Security Committee, the Republican chairman has convened a hearing that slanders the family of the president’s political opponent. Believe it or not, this powerful Senate committee, with broad jurisdiction over so many aspects of the government's response to the ongoing pandemic, is prioritizing yet another attempt to smear Vice President Biden. The Committee could be holding a hearing today with the FEMA Administrator to discuss disaster assistance, but no, the highest priority of Senate Republicans lies in promoting conspiracy theories that have already been discredited on numerous occasions. Conspiracy theories which, by the way, are known to be part of Russian disinformation campaigns. Our Republican majority is using Russian propaganda to try and damage a political opponent. Is that a disgrace? Is that a disgrace?

The Republican Chairman is pressing forward without members even receiving a briefing from the Intelligence Community. Even more shameful, the company my colleague from Wisconsin wants to subpoena is cooperating with the committee and providing documents. It appears the subpoena is just for show, a way to create the false impression of wrongdoing. It's like in a third world dictatorship, a show trial with no basis in fact, with no due process, with no reality.

Not to be outdone, the Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee has asked the members of his committee to consider subpoenas related to yet another conspiracy theory pushed by the president—a theory that attempts to re-write the history of Russian interference in the 2016 election to match the fiction in President Trump’s head. It seems Senate Republicans want to dive into the deepest muck of right-wing conspiracy to invent scapegoats for the president to use in his re-election campaign.

The conspiracy caucus is back. It reared its ugly head in December and been on a simmer ever since. Now it’s boiling over once again—shamefully—in the middle of a public health crisis and economic disaster that requires all of us to focus on the problems at hand.

But Senate Republicans aren’t drafting legislation to help the unemployed, they’re holding sham hearings about the family of the president’s political rival. Senate Republicans aren’t debating measures to increase testing, they’re turning Senate committee rooms into the studio of Fox and Friends. Senate Republicans are not just ignoring the coronavirus, they’re practically sprinting towards a partisan election, making this chamber part of a re-election campaign, not what it was ever intended to be by the Founding Fathers or anyone else until this fever to bow down to President Trump’s wild conspiracy theories has over taken just about every Senate Republican.

Here’s what Chairman Graham said about his “investigation” yesterday. Here's what he said: “I want to get all the information out there. I want to do it before the election.” Well, there's the Republican intention right there. Do it before the election.

Leader McConnell says that Republicans have not yet felt the urgency to act on the coronavirus. But it sure sounds like there’s some urgency to get these phony investigations going before November. A fever is raging in the conspiracy caucus. They're worried about the outcome of the election. They're worried that President Trump they know has done a very poor job in dealing with this crisis so they turned to wild conspiracy theories and turned the Senate—which should be debating, discussing coronavirus relief—into sort of a partisan sham chamber. It is disgraceful.

Now, Leader McConnell gave a lengthy speech on the floor of the Senate yesterday giving cover to many of the president’s crackpot theories about what transpired in 2016.

I’ll just say this. Leader McConnell reportedly watered down a bipartisan warning about Russian interference in the fall of 2016. He stalled for years on election security funding and still, to this day, is blocking election security legislation. If Leader McConnell wants to look back at the history of Russian interference in the 2016 election, he should look in the mirror. He might not like the way his own role is viewed.

The American people should be furious with Washington Republicans and so many are. More and more every day, Americans are waiting in modern day bread lines, jammed into municipal buildings, cars snaked around parking lots and city blocks. It's so sad to look at these pictures. Doctors and nurses and other caregivers have been working nonstop to save American lives, often without the proper equipment. Millions of American workers are sitting at home, having lost their jobs through no fault of their own, dreading the day the next rent payment comes due. But here in Washington, Senate Republicans feel no urgency to help these Americans, they’re too busy touting conspiracy theories to electioneer for the president.

Speaking of the president, he was here yesterday in the Capitol to have lunch with the Senate Republicans. They had a giant pep rally. They got all fired up to do nothing. That was the conclusion. On the way out of the Capitol, the president was asked about the fact that the United States leads the world in confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

And here’s what President Trump said. Amazingly, listen to this. Asked about leading the world in confirmed cases of coronavirus, the president said:  “I don’t look at that as a bad thing - I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. ... So I view it as a badge of honor, really.”

First of all, our testing is not much better. States are struggling to get people tested due to confusion and a lack of national leadership. Many experts believe we are far short of what we need on testing. None of these experts, who actually understand testing and this virus, would say the President deserves a “badge of honor” for his work.

But even more galling is the idea that a lot of cases of coronavirus is a “good thing.” That's what the president said, having lots of cases of coronavirus is a “good thing.” A lot of cases is not “a good thing,” Mr. President.

It means people are sick and people are dying.

A lot of cases means more Americans are in the hospital. More Americans in ICUs, struggling to breathe on ventilators. A lot of cases means more Americans will die as a result of a virus that has already claimed the lives of nearly 100,000. A lot of cases means a lot more Americans are seriously ill. Mr. President, that is not a good thing. Even your mind, which seems so warped at times, cannot believe that.

There is no honor in leading the world in the number of people infected with coronavirus. For the United States to have 1.5 million cases is not something to celebrate, it’s something to be ashamed of. Calling it a “badge of honor” isn’t just wrong, It’s sick and it’s an insult to every American family that loses a loved one to this evil disease.