Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Deliver The Bold Reforms Laid Out In The Justice In Policing Act And Demanding That Majority Leader McConnell Stop Spending The Senate’s Time On Discredited Conspiracy Theories And Put Legislation To Address Policing Reform And The Ongoing Public Health & Economic Crises On The Senate Floor Before July 4June 9, 2020
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor today to highlight the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act and to demand Leader McConnell stop focusing the Senate’s time on discredited conspiracy theories and put policing reform and COVID relief legislation on the Senate floor. Senator Schumer also announced that Senate Democrats have formally requested an investigation of "Project Air Bridge," the Trump administration's opaque medical supply chain management project. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
As protests over the death of George Floyd continue, House and Senate Democrats came together yesterday to unveil sweeping reforms to our nation’s police departments.
The Justice in Policing Act was not only a response to the recent protests, but a reflection of years of failed efforts to root out injustice and racial bias in our law enforcement.
This bill would ban the use of chokeholds and other tactics that have left Black Americans dead.
It would limit the transfer of military weaponry and equipment to police departments.
It would change the legal standard to make it easier to hold police accountable for misconduct when they use deadly force on American citizens.
And through increased data and transparency, as well as important modifications to training and practices, it would help prevent police misconduct in the first place.
This is a very strong bill, and rightly so.
I give tremendous credit to Senators Booker and Harris and so many others who contributed, as well as the Black Caucus led by Karen Bass, and Chairman Nadler of Judiciary. They have put together a very strong bill. And the reason is simple: the moment does not call for half-measures. Hundreds of thousands of American protesters are not asking us to chip away around the edges. They want bold reform, and meaningful changes to a system that all too often delivers unequal justice for too many Black Americans and that has existed that way for too, too long.
That kind of bold reform and meaningful change is what the Justice in Policing Act will deliver—meaningful change—and Democrats are going to fight very hard to make this proposal a reality.
And now of course, it is ultimately up to Leader McConnell to decide what proposals—if any—come to the Senate floor. That's his prerogative as Majority Leader.
But for two weeks, Leader McConnell has refused to respond to my request for the Senate to consider a police reform bill before July 4th, the end of this current work period.
I have heard the Republican leader speak to the frustrations that swept the nation. I trust he is aware of the many abuses that have been allowed to persist—unchecked—in our police departments. Where is Leader McConnell on actually doing something about it?
And of course, there is another major crisis of the moment, the COVID pandemic. According to reports in the press, Leader McConnell has told the Republican caucus not to expect another relief bill until late July at the earliest.
This is happening even as some states begin loosening restrictions on business and travel, but even as that happens, our economy is hampered by severe, depression-level unemployment. While the number of new cases is falling on the east coast, the number of cases remain steady in much of the country and is still increasing in a good number of states. And we're coming to a whole lot of cliffs. States are preparing their budgets in advance of the new fiscal year in July. If they don't get help soon, they may be forced to make severe cuts to public services and thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions would be laid off, hardworking state and local officials who our communities depend on.
And there are other cliffs as well. The moratorium, the three-month moratorium on eviction, expires. Unemployment expires July 31st. There are so many cliffs here.
And make no mistake about it, COVID is related to racial justice as well. In the HEROES bill, for in instance, hazard workers, frontline workers get extra pay—hazard pay. More than 40% of them are minorities. These are the people on our front lines. Rental assistance for people who might be evicted. A large percentage of minority folks cannot afford to own a home and rent so we must act on that as well.
So the kind of racial justice that we're talking about, the kind of inequality that exists, some of it, a good chunk of it, would be relieved if we passed the HEROES Act—the COVID-4 bill. So both of these are important to do.
Racial justice, civil rights, a global pandemic and an economic disaster: these are not merely issues of the month but of this moment in American history. It is truly a time of historic challenge.
And Leader McConnell and the Republican Senate are missing in action. No commitment to consider police reform; no urgency to provide our country relief despite the upcoming cliffs that are going to be soon upon us.
There are still four weeks remaining before July 4th. I say to Leader McConnell: commit to a police reform bill on the Senate floor and work with us on another emergency package that can come to the floor as well, before July 4th. We have waited too long already.
For weeks, we Democrats have had to relentlessly pressure our Republican colleagues to hold even the most routine oversight hearings. The Republican majority on the Homeland Security Committee, in particular, has wasted time these past few weeks trying to smear the family of the president’s political opponent instead.
Here we have a major crisis, a major crisis on the health front, on the economic front, on the racial justice front, and what are so many of our Republican friends doing? Raising back already-discredited conspiracy theories, to go after the president's political opponent at a time when Americans are calling for unity and coming together and doing something about our problems? It's a shame.
And the Homeland Security Committee will finally today conduct a hearing today with the FEMA administrator, for the first time in so long. This crisis has been raging for months. More than eight weeks ago we passed a $3 trillion bill. Why has it taken so long to have any oversight at all? But finally members of the committee will have the opportunity to press administration officials as to why, in the early days of the pandemic, the distribution of PPE and other critical medical supplies was marked by so much confusion, secrecy, incompetence, and delays.
In fact, Senators Warren, Blumenthal and I have formally requested an investigation into “Project Air Bridge” – the name of the Trump administration’s opaque medical supply chain management project, which by most reports was a failure. Why aren't we looking into why that went wrong and how we can correct it?
The harsh fact of the matter is: we have lost too many Americans, front-line workers, hospital and emergency personnel to this horrible COVID-19 disease. We’ll never know how many we lost because we weren’t better prepared with the necessary protective equipment. The Trump administration’s failures should be thoroughly investigated so that it does not make the same mistake again if there’s a resurgence of the disease.
Meanwhile, America is still waiting for the president to even acknowledge the issues of police violence and racial justice that are driving protests across the country, including across the street from the White House.
The president appears too preoccupied trying to emulate Richard Nixon, of all presidents, to offer even a scintilla of leadership. The president seems too preoccupied with his own political precariousness to even try to bring the country together.
As former Defense Secretary Mattis wrote last week: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
But, he said, “we can unite without him.”
And do that we must as Americans. And those words were not written by some liberal Democrat who they'll call names at, cast dispersions on, never discussing the argument. It was written by one of our great military leaders, former Defense Secretary General Mattis. Every day, every day provides fresh evidence that this country will have to unite in spite of its president, not because of him.