Schumer Floor Remarks On The Importance Of Support For State And Local Governments And The Need To Pass An Emergency COVID-Relief Bill To Help American Families

December 10, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the urgency to pass an emergency COVID relief bill to help families in need. Senator Schumer laid out how funding for state and local governments would support frontline workers and first responders and explained why Senator McConnell’s sweeping corporate immunity proposal is expressly partisan and a solution in search of a problem. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

With each passing day, we get another round of news underscoring how costly this pandemic has been. Yesterday, over 3,000 Americans—3,000—died from COVID-19, the highest single-day death toll to date.

If you were making a list of some of the deadliest days in American history, your mind would jump to Gettysburg and Antietam, Pearl Harbor or 9/11. You can now add to that somber list: last Thursday, last Wednesday, last Tuesday, last Friday, and yesterday. Each day, nearly 2,500 Americans or more lost their lives to COVID-19 over the course of a single day.

Now, time is running out for Congress to finish our most pressing priority: passing an emergency COVID-relief bill to help American families in need.

Right now, there is one clear path to getting an outcome: a bipartisan group of Senators and House members who have reached an initial agreement on another emergency relief bill. In the spirit of compromise and for the sake of getting something done for the American people, Speaker Pelosi and I have endorsed those efforts as a framework for the final bill.

Everyone knows that this bipartisan proposal is the only real game in town at the moment, the only proposal with enough bipartisan support to hopefully pass both Houses of Congress before the end of the year.

Everyone knows that, it seems, except Leader McConnell—who continues to stand in the way of bipartisan progress, and who seems to wake up each morning with a new list of outlandish reasons why Democrats are somehow to blame for all the world’s ills.

As the bipartisan group of Senators continues to work towards a final agreement, I want address an incredibly false equivalency that has been drawn between two provisions: providing aid to state and local services, essential state and local services, and granting sweeping immunity to corporations who put their workers in harms’ way during this pandemic.

You’ll hear voices saying Democrats want to fund state and local services, while Republicans—that is, Leader McConnell—want a corporate liability shield; each side wants something that the other side doesn’t want to accept.

But as I said, this is an false equivalency—incredibly false—for two reasons.

First, state and local aid has broad, bipartisan support, totally unlike the Republican leader’s liability provision, which is expressly partisan.

Let me say that again, because it’s important: there is strong bipartisan support for state and local aid; there is not the same broad bipartisan support for sweeping corporate immunity.

Second, the two policies are not remotely equivalent in terms of importance, or relevance to what’s going on in our country right now.

When we talk about providing federal aid so that states don’t have to cut essential services, we’re talking about saving lives and we’re talking about saving jobs. We’re talking about boosting the economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, money for state-and-local government creates the best bang-for-the-buck for the economy from any spending Congress is considering.

State and local aid is a policy with a nationwide reach. It would solve a real, immediate problem.

On the other hand, when Republicans talk about giving corporate indemnity, they’re talking about a solution in search of a problem: to date there have been 20, only 20 some-odd personal injury lawsuits filed in the entire country.

The bottom line is: one provision solves a real problem in our country, the other does not. The two sides are not remotely equivalent and it’s not a “trade” that makes any sense in terms of the well-being of the American people.

Now, I know the Republican leader and Senate Republicans want to help small businesses, and re-up the popular PPP to help prevent businesses from folding and American workers from being laid off.

So do I. So do Democrats!

Well guess what, state and local relief is also about Americans workers getting laid off too.

If you want PPP so small businesses don't lay off people, why wouldn't you want state and local aid so governments don't lay off people? They are the same people who need to feed their families, pay their rent, pay their mortgage, and get on with life.

State and local relief is about American workers getting laid off.

It’s about firefighters getting laid off.

It’s about first responders getting laid off.

It’s about teachers getting laid off. Bus drivers; sanitation workers; essential employees: men and women who have been working since the pandemic began, and risking their lives to keep our country moving.

It’s impossible to imagine any community in this country functioning without them.

And this morning, we learned that an additional 1.4 million Americans filed new unemployment claims, a huge spike from the previous week. If you want to save jobs, if you want to make sure those numbers don't go up, we need PPP for small business and we need state and local aid for our governments because both aid those entities and prevent people from being laid off and unemployment from going up.

The liability provisions of the Leader have nothing to do with that, and in fact only affect a very small number of lawsuits.

So, if we’re going to be here on the floor and talking about saving jobs, we have to talk about saving the jobs of essential public employees. They deserve our help too. They're no different than anyone else, whether they're in a red state or a blue state.

And make no mistake: right now there’s one person, just one person standing in the way, and that is Leader McConnell.