Schumer Floor Remarks On Senate Republicans’ Refusal To Take Seriously The Urgent And Necessary Action The Senate Must Take To Respond To The Coronavirus Economic And Public Health Crisis

May 14, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor denouncing Senate Republicans’ refusal to take seriously the urgent and necessary action the Senate must take to respond to the coronavirus economic and public health crisis. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

It has been two weeks since Leader McConnell called us back into session. In that time, it was announced that 30 million Americans filed for unemployment. Just this morning we learned that another 3 million Americans filed jobless claims this week. And yet the Republican Leader has scheduled exactly zero votes—zero—on legislation related to the corona crisis.

Instead, Leader McConnell has resisted urgent and necessary action to fight the pandemic. He has said that now is the time to “press the pause button.”

Tell that to someone trying to feed his or her children. Tell that to some small business person who's kept a business going for 20 years and now is ready to go bankrupt. Tell that to workers at every level of this economy who are losing their jobs.

Time to press the pause button, when we have faced the greatest health and economic crisis since the depression? Leader McConnell has said Republicans “have yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately.”

How many of our Republican senators have yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately? How many? I'd urge the constituents of senators in every state to call them and ask them that question. Do you agree with Senator McConnell? We have yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately.

Well, I could give our Republican colleagues more than 30 million reasons to “feel the urgency of acting immediately.”

We are staring at a period of prolonged economy misery for millions of American workers and families. Americans who, for the first time, don’t know if they’ll be able to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table, or pay the rent. Americans who, for the first time, are waiting in staggering lines for food banks, cars lined up for miles, snaked across parking lots. People that never, ever, imagined they'd be lining up at a food bank.

Just how long will it take, how much economic hardship will suffice, before Senate Republicans feel the urgency to act?

And it’s not just Democrats who are pleading with the Republican majority to wake up to the economic reality in the country. Oh, no: Governors spanning the country—and spanning both political parties— they know darn well that this is not a blue state-red state issue. How cheap. A firefighter that's laid off in Florida and a firefighter that's laid off in New York are both hurting. And they're not looking to what kind of state they're in.

So the governors are calling for help. States, cities, localities are forced to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters, food health safety workers. So it's governors of both parties. Listen to the NGA—led by a Republican governor—and they need to get unanimous consent for most of the things they do.

Now, it's not just governors and politicians. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, hardly a Democrat, a Trump appointee, here’s what he said yesterday that “the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II.”

He went on to say that “additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

That’s Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jay Powell, appointed by the president, President Trump, telling Republicans to get up off their hands and do something! Chairman Powell has used almost every tool in his monetary tool kit. He knows we need fiscal relief, more of it.

But Leader McConnell has so far rejected doing another emergency relief bill. His party is slowly drafting legislation to give legal immunity to big corporations who put workers in dangerous situations.

That is not the nub of the issue. We know that. We have so many diversions on the Republican side: liability, China. Let's solve the problem right now. What are we going to do for people who are out of work? What are we going to do for people who can't feed their families? What are we going to do for businesses that are going under?

Senate Democrats have had to relentlessly pressure our Republican colleagues to hold even the most routine oversight hearings on the coronavirus. Our Republican colleagues say well, we don't want to spend any more money. We have to know how it's spent, and yet they're not having a whole raft of hearings that they should in order to see how the money is spent. Instead, they're talking about appointing right-wing judges who want to repeal health care to the bench. Wow. How out of touch.

The Republican Leader made sure that the Judiciary Committee had time to consider his protégé, a right-wing judge, to sit on the second most powerful court in the country, even though there is no particular need for that nomination at the moment.

The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, yesterday, told committee members that, next week, he was planning on delving into baseless, Kremlin-concocted conspiracy theories against the son of Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president. Russia comes up with the theory, the Republicans embrace it instead of doing what they're supposed to be doing.

The Republican majority doesn’t have time to call in the SBA Administrator, or the FEMA Administrator, or hold a hearing on the shortage of PPE—which our workers on the front lines so desperately need—but all of the sudden they have time to use a Senate Committee to try to slander the president’s political opponent? What world are they in? How out of touch can they be?

We’re in the middle of a public health and economic crisis, and Senate Republicans are diving head-first into the muck, pursuing diversionary, partisan conspiracy theories to prop up President Trump when President Trump should be focusing on solving this crisis.

Once again, trying to achieve what the president tried to achieve in the Ukraine scandal by another means, sullying his opponent with baseless conspiracy theories. Don’t our Republican friends see the folly of following President Trump in this regard? Don't they know the American people are wise to this kind of stuff? 

There are over 30 million people without work, tens of thousands losing their lives, and this pursuing of baseless conspiracy theories—this is what the Republican majority is focused on.

Now, unfortunately, Republicans in Congress aren’t the only ones unwilling to do the urgent and necessary work of the moment. President Trump and his administration are guilty of the same offense.

Yesterday, Dr. Fauci, one of the most respected health experts in the country, warned that re-opening schools and businesses too quickly could lead to unnecessary “suffering and death.” Asked about Dr. Fauci’s comments, President Trump said “[Dr. Fauci] wants to play all sides of the equation…to me, it’s not an acceptable answer.”

President Trump: Dr. Fauci isn’t playing all sides of the equation, he’s giving you one side of the equation: the truth, the truth, President Trump.

Without you lurking over his shoulder or contradicting him at a press conference or yelling at a reporter who asked a legitimate question, we don’t need Dr. Fauci to tell us that there are risks to re-opening too soon and without proper preparation. That is obvious to just about everyone. That is the truth. But President Trump just inveterately abases the truth if it doesn’t fit with the fantasy he’s constructed in his head. First fantasy: it was a hoax. Second fantasy: it will go away in the warm weather.

Well, here we are. It's May. Has it gone away, President Trump? Is it a hoax, President Trump? No, of course not.

And now one of his latest, that Dr. Fauci is making things up or is wrong. He will rush us back to work before we have the proper testing, and we will pay a price. That's what the scientists tell us. And they know best. They're not politicians.

Thankfully, in this big, grand, diverse, and beautiful country, you cannot suppress the truth for too long. And over the past week, a parade of truth-tellers has begun. On Tuesday it was Dr. Fauci. On Wednesday, Jerome Powell. Today, HHS official Rick Bright, who is testifying in the House.

The president may try to shroud the truth from the American people and even from himself, but eventually, inevitably, the truth will come out about how poorly his administration has dealt with this crisis. It's one of the worst performances by a president in American history.

The American people have been following stay-at-home orders for months on end, doing their part to slow the spread of this pernicious disease. Those many millions who have sacrificed their routines and livelihoods have bought this country precious time to plan for life after the pandemic. Precious time to ramp up testing, produce PPE, and formulate a plan for nationwide contact tracing.

What has the Trump Administration done with this precious time? They’ve wasted it, wasted it.

The president wants to re-open the country as quickly as possible but could not be less interested in the strategies that would allow us to do it safely. President Trump, you want to get the country open quickly? You want to get people back to the malls and riding on airplanes? Get the kind of testing that other countries have done. We still are leagues behind on testing.

He said two months ago, on March 6: anyone who wants a test can get one. Tell that to the millions and millions of Americans who want tests and can't get one. A de facto nationwide lockdown has been going on for weeks, and our testing capacity has not yet approached the number just about every expert says is required.

The president in an emergency, which we certainly have, hasn’t requisitioned American manufacturing to produce the tests we need and has been slow to dispense Congressional funds intended to help states do the job. We voted for those a few weeks back. States are still waiting.

Businesses, schools, sports leagues, and families are going to need guidance from public health experts on how to open as safely as possible.

I talked to hotel executives, sports executives yesterday. They know without testing they're not going to come back. If they could test every person walking into a large arena and turn away anyone who might have COVID, people would be far more likely to sit in the seats. Georgia, where Governor Kemp has been the most forward pushing people to open up, something like 6 percent to 8 percent of the people showed up. This is two weeks after he opened up at the malls and the stores. People are not going to go out unless they're sure they won't get COVID. They can't be sure they won't get COVID unless we have many more tests. What is the president waiting for? He cuts his nose to spite his face. He wants to get us back to work but doesn't push testing.

The anomalies of this man just go on and on and on.

Now, people also want to know the guidance. What should they do, what they shouldn't. They want it from scientists. CDC-prepared guidance. The president has held it back so that his political appointees could edit it to suit their purposes.

Yesterday, I tried to ask the Senate’s consent to release the un-redacted, unedited CDC guidance and Senate Republicans, of course, blocked the request! The Junior Senator from Indiana said he didn’t want “career regulators”—meaning experts and scientists at the CDC— to advise the country on how to re-open safely, that the president and his team of political advisors should be able to decide that.

Is there anyone left in this country, except the most die-hard partisan, who trusts this administration to issue medical guidance properly? Come on.

Here’s the bottom line: the sacrifices of the American people gave this administration time to prepare the country to return to some semblance of normal. Those sacrifices have been squandered by President Trump and his Republican acolytes.

We all want to get back to normal. I certainly do. But there is a smart way to begin re-opening the country—a way to do it safely, with precautions and testing and tracing, to avoid a resurgence of the disease—and then, there is a reckless way.

President Trump so far has chosen the reckless way, and seems to have no plan to right the ship.