Schumer Floor Remarks Supporting The Urgently-Needed HEROES Act And Rebuking Sen. McConnell’s Comments That GOP Has Yet To Feel Urgency To Act Immediately On Further Relief For Families Facing Coronavirus

May 13, 2020

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor in support of The Heroes Act, House Democrats’ new, urgently-needed emergency coronavirus relief legislation to help Americans suffering from the current health and economic crisis. Senator Schumer also spoke regarding Leader McConnell’s comments that Senate Republicans have “yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately” to address the health and economic crises, despite record unemployment numbers and widespread reports of families going hungry and not being able to afford rent. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

When I speak on the floor, I remove my mask. But today is a special reason to keep this mask on. This mask is made by Hickey Freeman in Rochester, New York, by American labor, union labor, by a grand and proud and generous company that's been in Rochester for the last three centuries: the 1800's, 1900's, and now the 2000's. It's a wonderful company. They have kept jobs, good-paying jobs, in America to make fine clothing and they started making the masks to give them to a local hospital at cost.

So I salute Hickey Freeman. I salute the great tradesmen and women who work there, and may they continue for a hundred more years providing jobs in Rochester and helping when we need help.

Yesterday, House Democrats unveiled new legislation to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The American people need their government to act strongly, decisively, and wisely, and this new legislation is the urgent and necessary response to what this crisis demands.

As any one of us could have predicted, the Republican leader is rather predictably responding against the House Democratic bill to address the COVID-19 crisis.

His response is predictable because for weeks, Leader McConnell has been pre-emptively slandering any legislation coming out of the House as “a partisan wish list”—long before he even saw the bill. It was a paint-by-numbers response from the Republican Leader and continues to be. It didn’t matter what was in the bill. In his eyes—not in the eyes of almost every American—it was going to be a “far-left, partisan wish list.”

And to fit the pre-ordained narrative, last night, Senate Republicans were latching on to provisions that account for .0003 percent of the total bill—0.0003 percent. Talk about grasping at straws.

It is so predictable that the Republican leader would oppose the bill before he saw what's in it. And now that it is so necessary for so many Americans, it's predictable that Republicans are just saying “No.”

The Republican leader also called the bill “aspirational.” The Republican leader should know: it is not “aspirational” when a family can’t feed their children. It is not “aspirational” when Americans for the first time are worried about losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments. It is not “aspirational” when Americans are facing a health crisis in which every one of us is afraid that we might come down with dangerous illness or spread it to a loved one. It is not “aspirational” – we are talking about urgent and necessary relief.

But out of reflexive, knee-jerk partisanship, the Republican leadership in the Senate basically declared the House relief bill “dead on arrival” before it was even announced.

It is a shocking and incomprehensible position to take at this moment of national crisis. It would be one thing for Republican leadership to say, let’s sit down and negotiate. Let’s talk about where both parties can come together to do something for the nation’s wellbeing at this time of urgent crisis. But they have taken the position that there is absolutely no urgency to do anything at all.

On Monday, here's what the Republican leader said. Republicans, he said, “have yet to feel the urgency to act immediately.” What will it take? Are they so, so wrapped around a hard-right ideology that they can't see the real needs of the American people? Is there no urgency on testing? Talk to your local businesses. Talk to your local mayors. Talk to your local governors.

See if there is no urgency on testing. If there is no urgency to provide relief to renters or homeowners. No urgency to prevent firefighters, police officers and teachers from being laid off by state and local governments whose budgets are underwater in both blue and red states.

I’d like to know how many of my Republican colleagues actually oppose providing reassurance to state and local governments so that teachers in Iowa, firefighters in North Carolina, and police officers in Kentucky don’t get laid off. The support our states need is in the House bill. It is very close to what the governors, Democrat and Republican, have asked for.

Leader McConnell frequently highlights the heroism of our essential workers. I applaud him for that. But why don't we, in addition to giving speeches on the floor, put a little money in their pockets for the extra expenses they are undergoing? Why isn’t there an urgency to provide them hazard pay? That’s in the House bill.

Leader McConnell and President Trump have placed a great emphasis on re-opening the country as quickly as possible. That’s something we all want to see. So, how do we achieve that safely? Far and away the most important factor in re-opening the economy is testing.

We are far behind where we should be. Dr. Fauci made that clear yesterday, despite the president's lies and mistruths about testing. Remember, our president said on March 6, I think it was, “anyone who wants a test can have a test.” That is even not true today. Deluding the American people, running from the truth to say what pops into your head so it sounds good to the media for that moment, which it seems to be the president's MO, it doesn't help. Doesn't help.

Everyone knows that until this crisis is over, and on into the future, we’re going to need personal protective equipment to begin safely returning to work. As I mentioned, I wore on the floor this mask made in Rochester, by Hickey Freeman. Well, the House bill, the house bill includes crucial support for the supply chain and manufacturing of PPE. Should we wait on that? Is that not urgent? An ambulance worker, a health care worker not having the PPE they need? Not urgent? Who believes that? Does Leader McConnell? Does President Trump? Do our Republican colleagues?

It is just baffling, baffling at this time of probably the greatest crisis we have faced—both health and economic—in decades,  that the Senate Republican leadership, instead of working with Democrats to find common ground on these crucial issues, has decided it will be against taking urgent and necessary action to help the American people in a time of national crisis (unless of course, that means liability protections for big corporations—that seems to be their number one concern).

More than 30 million Americans are now unemployed. More than 80,000 Americans have died. Just how many lost jobs, lost businesses, lost lives will it take before Senate Republicans begin to feel the urgency?

###