Schumer Floor Remarks On The Complete Failure Of President Trump’s Weak And Narrow Executive Actions To Meet The Needs Of The American People And Calling For Republicans To Work With Democrats On A Real Solution

August 10, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor blasting President Trump’s weak executive actions that fail to comprehensively and seriously address the needs of the American people amid this historic crisis. Leader Schumer called for the Trump administration to get serious and work with Democrats on a real solution. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Over the weekend, the United States achieved an ignominious milestone: five million Americans are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, by far the most in the world. Our country went from 4 million Americans having had the disease to 5 million in 17 days. Only 17 days. 1 million Americans were infected in just 17 days. We have lost American businesses, American wealth, and an unbearable number of American lives—a number that will inevitably increase as the number of infections continues to rise. The brutal economic effect of the pandemic has spared no corner of our country.

We are living through the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, and the greatest health crisis since the Spanish Flu in 1918.

So, it should not be so hard to convince Republicans in the Senate and the White House to provide urgent and necessary relief to the American people. The $3.4 trillion in the Heroes Act is based on the country’s needs, which are so large and so diverse. It is not a political position, it is what our country needs: it’s schools, it’s businesses, it’s renters, it’s homeowners, it’s essential workers, it’s post office and it’s elections, state and local governments and our health care system.

Leader McConnell doesn’t seem to understand this; it’s as if he sees everything through a political lens. But we Democrats are looking at the real needs of people and they’re large, they’re in many different places. And that is why we called for a large bill. Because it was needed. Because the American people demanded it. At this point the American people are on our side. Two-thirds, by survey data, support the $3.4 trillion Democratic plan, not the skimpy Republican plan that doesn’t deal with people’s needs.

But, at the end of last week, after days of arduous negotiations, Speaker Pelosi and I continued to run into Republican intransigence. They didn’t see people’s needs the way we did, they didn’t see the depth and breadth of this crisis. So, like in any normal negotiation, we offered to move in their direction if they would move in ours. Let’s meet in the middle, we said. In the middle. That’s how negotiations occur, that’s how you get something done. The White House said no.

It was difficult for us to offer that compromise. The Democratic position is that we want to devote enough resources to defeat the virus and see the American people through this crisis; the Republican position is to give much less than what’s needed. Democrats don’t want to leave large portions of the country and the economy to fend for itself. But the reason we want to meet in the middle is that getting major legislation through Congress is the only way to achieve something significant for the American people.

Rather than compromise, our Republican counterparts said ‘take a hike.’ Quite literally, they said this in the room: “No, it’s going to be our way or no way. We’re not going to meet you in the middle.” Why? Why wouldn’t they? When the needs are so great, when there are so many people suffering and so many more who will suffer if we don’t act.

Well, it’s because this Republican Party is so tied in a knot that it can’t agree to anything. It can only spew the same political speech every day. The Republican Leader has admitted that 20 Republican Senators won’t vote for any more relief for the American people. The Senate Republican bill that the Leader keeps referring to lacks the support of Senate Republicans!

They can’t bring it to the floor because so many of them will vote against it. The president himself called the Republican bill “semi-irrelevant.” One of the few things that had some truth to it that he said about this crisis. It was not some possibility that Democrats blocked; Senate Republicans spiked it the moment it came out!

Why? Maybe they thought these executive orders would be a way out, so tied in a knot they can’t legislate or even bring themselves to join us to meet in the middle. They were clinging to the hope that the President could do something on his own through executive orders. But as we have seen, executive orders in general aren’t going to get the job done, especially the incompetent ones issued over the weekend. President Trump’s recent executive orders are so unserious in terms of meeting the large needs of America as to be pathetic.

Take for example the payroll tax deferral. It makes no sense. Even Republican members of Congress—and, according to reports, some members of the administration—opposed a payroll tax deferral because it would do next to nothing to help our workers or the economy. Remember, the president did not cancel payroll taxes, he can’t, he just deferred them. Most employers will continue to withhold the payroll tax so they and their employees won’t be hit with a very large tax bill in December when it expires.

And ADP—a payroll processing company—said that it “may take months to implement” the president’s new policy.

It feels like forever ago, but Candidate Trump promised he was different from Republicans and would never touch Social Security or Medicare. Well guess what: deferring the payroll tax is a backdoor way of weakening Social Security and Medicare. In case the president’s intentions weren’t clear, he said that after the election, he may permanently cut the payroll tax, which would deplete the trust funds and destroy Social Security and Medicare as we know it. If you’re a senior or have paid into Social Security and Medicare and are waiting for it– watch out.

Watch out. Seniors throughout the decades since we've had social security have jealously regarded the trust fund. And now Donald Trump says, well, now, maybe we should get rid of it because we should defer—we should get rid of the payroll tax all together. So this Executive Order is an example of many false promises that Donald Trump has made.

The President’s executive order on unemployment benefits is also a disaster. It is so put together with spit and glue, that in all likelihood many states won't implement it at all, some have said so, and many more even if they want to implement it will take months, several months, while people will not get their unemployment benefits.

The easiest thing to do for the good of the economy for keeping millions out of poverty which the president's pandemic unemployment insurance has done is simply to renew the existing unemployment insurance. But because of the hard-right, because so many Republicans don't want to spend the money, even for people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, it doesn't happen.

The idea that the American worker is looking for an out is demeaning to the American worker, Leader McConnell.

Americans want to work. There's pride in work. The overwhelming majority of Americans, if given the choice of a job or unemployment insurance for a period of time, even if that unemployment insurance is not exactly what they got paid, will take the job. We know that. America believes in the work ethic. So how demeaning to the American worker to say they are looking for a way out.

They are looking for a way to scheme the system. That's not the American worker I know. That’s not the New York worker I know.

But of course, when employment is over 10%, you can be looking for a job, but you may not get one. That's the reason so many people are on pandemic unemployment insurance. So the president's plan there was nothing short of a disaster in terms of its inability to be implemented, its effect on Social Security and Medicare, and the demeaning way in which it looks at the American worker. The president's executive orders therefore are a disaster.

The president’s executive order on evictions is the best example of all sizzle and no steak. It does not even guarantee a moratorium on evictions—it merely instructs federal agencies to “review” and “consider” whether it’s appropriate to halt evictions—let alone help people who have fallen behind on their rent.

So the three of the things the president has done don’t work. The deferral of the payroll tax hurts Social Security and does not pump money into the economy. Cutting the unemployment insurance will take weeks and months to implement and hurts American workers and demeans them. And the Executive Order on evictions—let’s “consider” something. We know what that means in jargon around here. Let’s not do it. Let’s just talk about it.

So President Trump’s executive “orders” are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go ask the Republican Senators from South Carolina and Nebraska who aren’t too thrilled with it either.

And of course, the biggest problem with these Executive Orders is not what they do, but what they don’t and can’t do:

·         The orders don’t address testing, tracing and treatment of COVID-19—desperately needed to curb the health crisis which in turn is hurting the economy so badly.

·         The orders leave out money to safely reopen our schools and provide the PPE and other help needed to keep kids, teachers and staff safe.

·         The orders won’t give food assistance for hungry kids and families.

·         The orders won’t aid state and local governments. Firefighters, sanitation workers, bus drivers, health care workers, all the people who keep our communities running could lose their jobs.

·         The orders leave out funds to ensure elections can be carried out safely amid COVID-19.

·         And the orders do nothing to keep our post offices open and make sure our elections are conducted in a safe and sound manner during this COVID crisis.

The fact is we are facing an unprecedented crisis. The government is going to have to commit resources to fight this disease and the economic devastation it has wrought. Executive orders cannot do that, and therefore will always be insufficient, especially those crafted in such a poor way as these. The only way to crush the virus and truly protect American working families is to pass a comprehensive bill in Congress that is equal to the challenges facing our country. 

Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need Republicans to join us there and meet us halfway, and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people. We’re ready as soon as our Republican colleagues have come off this view that it’s their way or no way and meet us in the middle.