Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For Comprehensive Policing Reform, Calling For A Briefing With Dr. Fauci And Dr. Birx Amid A Troubling Resurgence In Coronavirus, And Decrying Republicans’ Plans To Confirm Judges With Anti-Civil Rights Records Amid Historic Protests

June 11, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for comprehensive policing reform. Senator Schumer also called for a briefing with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx amid a troubling resurgence in coronavirus cases around the country. In addition, he condemned Senate Republicans for focusing on debunked conspiracy theories and confirming judges with anti-civil rights records amid historic protests. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery catapulted the issues of racial justice, police violence, and systemic racism to the forefront of the nation’s conscience. But these issues are not new. Some are even older than the nation itself. And the anger felt by hundreds of thousands of protesters is about that historical and pervasive injustice. It’s rooted in our decades-long failure to reform police departments and the yawning gap between our ideal of “equal justice under law” and the reality of equal justice for only some.

America's an experiment. Our Founding Fathers said that. We know it deep in our bones. An experiment means you can change, and some of the best observers of the difference—I think de Tocqueville was one of these—of America and the difference between us and other countries, we are willing to change.

I am touched and moved—I was with the demonstrators on Saturday in New York in Brooklyn—of how many people were there, great diversity, and how many were young and idealistic and doing things for just the right reasons. Not selfish reasons, but for the better of the country to make us a more perfect union. We must seize this moment. We cannot let it pass. This isn't are simply renewing a national dialogue, although dialogue is always important. It's about action. It's about making real and meaningful progress. And the way to do that is with comprehensive police reform legislation in Congress.

So this moment isn’t about simply renewing a national dialogue, though dialogue is important. This moment is about action. It’s about making real and meaningful progress. And the way to do that is with comprehensive police reform legislation in Congress.

So House and Senate Democrats have already drafted legislation that would ban the use of chokeholds and other tactics that have taken the lives of Black Americans like George Floyd and Eric Garner. That would ban the use of “no knock” warrants in drug cases which was one of the reasons for the death of Breonna Taylor. That would limit the transfer of military equipment to police departments. And, crucially, that would make it easier to hold police accountable for misconduct, as well as institute several reforms to prevent that misconduct in the first place.

The moment does not call for cherry-picking one or two things to do. It calls for bold and broad-scale change. Wholesale reform, not piecemeal reform. I know the inclination of some of my Senate colleagues would be to cherry pick a few small improvements and say the job  is done. It will not be. We need to start—start—with the Justice in Policing Act—a strong, comprehensive bill that people, particularly Senators Booker and Harris, CBC, spent a lot of time with experts who have studied this issue for many, many months and years.

For too long, when major issues wash over the country, the waves of change and progress crash against the rocks of a disinterested Republican Senate majority. When Americans watched in horror as another spate of mass shootings rocked the nation, they rose up and demanded change.

President Trump and Senate Republicans initially tried to make the right noises. Leader McConnell promised that a debate on expanding background checks would be “front and center” in the Senate after shootings in Dayton and El Paso. But, predictably, that debate never came to pass. That seems to be the M.O. of our Republican friends. When there's a national crisis, major issues, people in the streets worried and concerned and want change, we hear words and then the strategy is delay and at the end do nothing.

So we cannot go through those same motions again. This is about the original sin of America, that we must try to deal with head-on. Americans are in the streets shouting at the tops of their lungs for change, young people, idealistic people, the best of America. The Senate must pursue comprehensive reform, not the lowest common denominator, and certainly not more empty rhetorical resolutions.

Of course, there is another crisis in our country crying out for action and leadership. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t go away while the nation rightfully turned its eyes to issues of racial justice. Yesterday, the United States eclipsed 2 million total cases of coronavirus. Another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment this week. Federal Reserve officials, sober, nonpolitical, are predicting that—best-case—we’ll end the year around 10% unemployment, a staggering figure, one out of every ten. One out of every ten.

The disease is spiking in a number of states around the country. Arizona officials have warned that its hospitals could be filled by next month. Texas has gone three straight days with record numbers of hospitalizations. North Carolina, New Mexico, California, Oregon, and several other states are experiencing a resurgence, or peak-levels of COVID-19.

As the President continues to fixate on the stock market and Senate Republicans are ready to prematurely declare victory, we need to wrest the focus back to these crucial issues. So today I’m requesting that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and other members of the administration’s Coronavirus Task Force conduct a briefing for Democratic Senators on the recent spikes—do it next week. We need to understand why these spikes are happening and how to adapt our national response.

The president always interested in himself, not in the good of the country, was too quick to sideline the Coronavirus Task Force, too eager to pretend that everything was back to normal and better than ever. The country needs Dr. Fauci on billboards but the president wants to put him on a milk carton. The Vice President yesterday was photographed with campaign staffers in a tight space, no social distancing, without anyone wearing a mask. The very least the administration could do is lead by example and often cannot even manage that much.

At the same time, we cannot forget that the issues of racial justice and COVID-19 are intricately related. The COVID pandemic disproportionately kills Black Americans. Communities of color have less access to quality health care, greater food insecurity, greater percentages of poverty, and a disproportionate number of our frontline, essential workers (41.2%) are African American and Latino. The majority of African Americans are renters, and dedicate more than 50% of their income to rent.

The truth is, an emergency bill on COVID-19 is a racial justice issue, too. Hazard pay for essential workers is a racial justice issue, too. Health care is a racial justice issue, too. Rent assistance and forbearance from eviction is a racial justice issue, too. These are all items that must be discussed in another COVID-relief bill, and it is past time we get to work.

African-Americans and Latinos and other minorities are taking the economic hit from the coronavirus on the chin. But Senate Republicans, led by Leader McConnell, are reportedly unwilling to consider another emergency relief bill until late July. How many more workers will lose their jobs between now and late July? How many renters will be kicked out of their homes between now and late July? How many state and local government workers who lose their jobs as state and local governments meet their budget deadlines on July 1st and don't have the dollars to deal with them. How many of them will lose their jobs? Wait until late July. It's callous. It's cold and it's wrong for our economy.

The Republican majority seems to have a whole lot of time to push right-wing judges. That’s what they want to do next week. Both of their judges that they nominate to show the hypocrisy of those who talk about wanting to help can compare it to their actions. Both of them have expressed an antipathy to our health care law in the middle of a public health crisis, the Republican majority thinks it can get away with stuff like this but they can't. Americans are catching on. One of whom, Cory Wilson, with an alarming record on voting rights in middle of a national reckoning on systemic racial injustice. You're all going to vote for him? This guy has opposed voting rights and you're going to vote for him. They oppose health care. You're going to vote for him? Then you're going to give nice speeches how you want equality? The two have to add up together.

The Republican majority seems to have  time to chase all of President Trump’s wild conspiracy theories about how he was wronged by law enforcement. The poor beleaguered President Trump. My goodness. That's what's happening in the Judiciary Committee today. The Republican majority and Leader McConnell can devote time to that but they can’t commit time on the floor about how Black Americans are being wronged by law enforcement.

In order to bring a small appearance of fairness to this ridiculous Judiciary Committee vote today, Democrats will be requesting subpoenas for Trump campaign associates like Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn, among others. These men have at one time or another pled guilty to offenses related to Putin’s interference in the 2016 election. Let's hear what they have to say, or should this be a one-sided kangaroo court to please President Trump?

If the Republican conspiracy caucus wants to waste the Senate’s time dredging up old conspiracy theories about the previous election, let’s at least get the story straight. Let's at least hear witnesses who might have something different to say. This is not a dictatorship. This is not how courts or hearings are supposed to work, I would say to the Republican Chairman. And it's beneath his dignity and the dignity of the body to conduct such sham kangaroo court hearings.