Schumer Floor Remarks Providing Update on Coronavirus Legislative Response Negotiations and Outlining Democratic Priorities that Put Workers and People First

March 22, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor to outline Democratic priorities during ongoing negotiations for Phase 3 Coronavirus response legislation. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I want to provide everyone with an update about the status of negotiations on the third phase of coronavirus legislation. Early this morning, Leader McConnell presented to us a highly partisan bill, written exclusively by Republicans, and he said he would call a vote to proceed to it today.

So who is being partisan? He knows darn well that for this bill to pass, it needs both Democratic and Republican support. And furthermore, when Speaker Pelosi and I said, “Let’s have a four corner negotiation,” it was Leader McConnell who resisted. So whatever we do here in the Senate, the House is doing its own bill. It made no sense then, it makes no sense now. I said to the Leader then, that would slow things down. So that’s where we are.

Most important is the legislation itself. The legislation has many problems. At the top of the list, it included a large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight. Also very troubling, the bill had significant shortfalls of money that our hospitals, states, cities, and medical workers desperately needed. This is a public health crisis, it is inexplicable to skimp on funding to address the pandemic.

I told both Leader McConnell and Secretary Mnuchin that our caucus could not support such a partisan bill and urged Leader McConnell to delay the 3 p.m. vote so that we might come to a bipartisan agreement. I’m glad he agreed because Democrats want to move forward with a bipartisan agreement.

Unfortunately, the legislation has not improved enough in the past three hours to earn the necessary votes to proceed. Given more time, I believe we could reach a point where the legislation is close enough to what the nation needs, for all Senators—all Senators—to want to move forward. We are not yet at that point.

America needs a Marshall Plan for our hospitals and public health infrastructure. The bill should include much more money for hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, and enough funding to address the coming shortages in masks, ICU beds, ventilators, testing and personal protective equipment.

This bill needs much more money to offset the costs now being incurred by state and local governments who are propping up their health networks. We cannot reach a point where our states and localities are going bankrupt or firing public employees like teachers and first responders.

And the corporate bailout provisions remain unacceptable. If we’re going to provide assistance to certain industries, there must be more oversight, transparency, and accountability. And there must certainly be protections for workers.

On unemployment insurance, we’re glad the bill has moved in the direction we outlined, but at the moment, the expanded unemployment benefits we’ve fought for last only three months. It’s supposed to be longer. We need it to be longer.

Now, let me be clear: the Majority Leader was well aware of how this vote would go before it happened, but he chose to move forward with it anyway, even though negotiations are continuing. So who’s playing games?

But our caucus is united in trying to deliver a bill that addresses this health and economic crisis quickly and we’re committed to working in a bipartisan way to get it done, both sides of the aisle voting for a bill.

We are entitling our proposal—the Democratic bill that we introduced—“Workers First,” and we intend to follow through on this principle as we negotiate.

Now, the bipartisan negotiations on this package continue, even as we speak. Secretary Mnuchin was in my office just about a half hour ago. Changes to the legislation are being made, even as we speak. The bill can, and must, continue to improve.

We’re closer than we’ve been at any time over the past forty-eight hours to an agreement, but there are still too many problems in the proposed legislation.

Can we overcome the remaining disagreements in the next twenty-four hours? Yes. We can and we should. The nation demands it.