Schumer Floor Remarks On The Republican Proposal Prioritizing Corporate Immunity Over Support To Families Struggling Through COVID And Calling For Serious Legislation That Meets The Needs Of The American People

July 29, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on Senate Republicans’ decision to make corporate immunity a higher priority than support for families that are still struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Schumer also noted the apparent lack of support for Leader McConnell’s proposal and called for a serious, bipartisan proposal to address the COVID crises and meet the needs of the American people. In addition, he spoke regarding the nomination of Lauren McFerra to the National Labor Relation’s Board. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Over the past three months, as Americans stayed home, forfeiting their routines and their livelihoods to combat the spread of the virus; as essential workers risked their safety and their family’s safety; as 50 million Americans filed unemployment claims, small businesses folded, and the disease spread rapidly through the summer; the Republican majority “paused” on addressing COVID-19 while they confirmed more right wing judges.
Americans pitched in and sacrificed and many suffered greatly, while Senate Republicans kept their assembly line of extreme judicial nominees humming along and did little else.
And now, after an interminable delay, Senate Republicans have finally admitted that the country needs relief. But they can’t even get their act together to produce a halfway legitimate legislative proposal.
We all witnessed a week and a half of infighting on the Republican side as the country careened towards several cliffs created by Republican delay. Republicans bickered amongst themselves as the moratorium on evictions expired, state and local governments shed jobs and cut public services, and the last enhanced unemployment checks went out the door.
When Republicans finally convinced themselves they were ready to unveil a plan, instead of presenting a single, coherent bill, Republicans released several incongruent drafts littered with corporate giveaways, K-street handouts, presidential pet projects.
Some Senate Republicans proposed billions of dollars for large agribusinesses and defense contractors, but not a dime to help American families stay in their homes.
The Republican bill has a tax break for three-martini lunches, but no food assistance for hungry kids.
There’s $2 billion for a new FBI building whose location will increase the value of the Trump hotel, but no funding to help state and local governments retain teachers, firefighters, bus drivers and other public employees.
There’s no support for Medicaid, for nursing homes or those with disabilities. The proposals to support our health system and meet our testing needs are wildly insufficient.
And if you’re one of the 20-30 million of Americans who lost your job through no fault of your own and can’t find work, Senate Republicans think you have it too good right now. You should take a 30% pay cut, Republicans are saying.
This is not a serious proposal for a country in the midst of a once-in-a-generation crisis. So as you can imagine, when reviews started rolling in yesterday, they weren’t too positive.
One Senator said: “There are a hundred problems with the plan.”
Another: “It’s a mess. I can’t figure out what this bill is about.”
Another member of this chamber said: “You look at the package that was rolled out by the Republican leadership and it contains virtually nothing that will actually aid in the recovery.”
Those would be harsh criticisms if they came from Democrats. But those quotes weren’t from Democrats, those were Republican Senators talking about their own party’s plan. Two senior Republican Senators have said that the Republican proposal would be lucky to get even half of the Republican conference to vote for it.
Leader McConnell warned Democrats against blocking the Republican proposal. It turns out that Senate Republicans are blocking the Republican proposal.
So it’s abundantly clear that the Senate Republican proposal for the next phase of COVID-relief is not a useful starting point. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask President Trump, who took the podium yesterday afternoon and called the Senate Republican proposal: “semi-irrelevant.”
At this point, I’m beginning to wonder who does support the Republican proposal on COVID-19.
So here’s where we are. We need to turn the page on the Republican proposal, and quickly. The legislative train wreck by Senate Republicans cannot derail our efforts to provide urgent, comprehensive, and necessary relief to the American people.
Speaker Pelosi and I have started negotiating with Chief of Staff Meadows and Secretary Mnuchin. We want to work with our Republican colleagues and the White House on a bill that actually meets the needs of the American people in these unprecedented times. But it’s going to take good faith and compromise. We’re not hearing that from Leader McConnell.
Leader McConnell, already IS drawing lines in the sand, insisting yesterday than any agreement include his specific corporate immunity provision.
No negotiation. Put this provision—extreme provision—in the bill, without negotiation.
That sure doesn’t sound like someone who wants to reach a bipartisan agreement. We’re going to need everyone to pull together. We are going to need to focus on the needs of the American people. With all due respect to the Republican leader, Americans on the brink of eviction are not crying out for a sweeping corporate liability shield.
No one should be willing to torpedo all the relief Americans are counting on unless there’s a giant corporate giveaway attached.
Time is short. Speaker Pelosi and I will be back at the negotiating table with the White House later today. It’s time for our Republican colleagues to roll up their sleeves and get serious as well.
And one final point on this subject.
Again this morning, the Republican leader continued his Alice-in-Wonderland interpretation of what has happened. When what has happened is black, he says white. When what has happened is white, he says black. He's the total opposite of the truth in what's happened.
He's suggested that Democrats might be trying to block progress on COVID-relief because it might suit our party in the election. That—we, Democrats—had decided to stop legislating until November. I mean, shocking stuff.
Over ten weeks ago, Democrats—Democrats—passed a bill three times the size of the Republican “proposal” that was more generous and beneficial to the American people on nearly every measure. Leader McConnell dismissed it.
Senate Democrats spent the entire month of June asking our Republican colleagues, including Leader McConnell, to pass crucial legislation related to jobs, health care, and small businesses. We went on the floor and made those requests. Republicans blocked nearly every single one of those requests.
So this absurd and nasty insinuation by the Republican Leader doesn’t pass the laugh test. The fact that Leader McConnell would even consider the idea that a political party might deny support for the American people in order to help win an election says more about the Republican Leader than anybody else.
On another matter. Today, the Senate will vote on two nominations to the NLRB, the National Labor Relation’s Board—one nominee from the Republican side and another from the Democratic side. On bipartisan boards and commissions like the NLRB, this used to be the tradition. The president’s party always enjoys a majority on these boards, but it’s crucial for the opposite party—whoever it is at the time—to have their recommendations approved to these bipartisan boards.
Unfortunately, the vote today comes after more than two years during which the Republican majority refused to even schedule a vote on a Democratic nominee to the NLRB, Mark Pearce. The Republicans waited so long that both Democratic nominees that were already on the NLRB had their terms expire. So while Democrats look forward to confirming Lauren McFerran to the NLRB later today, we are still frustrated—frustrated—that the Republican majority denied any Democratic representation on the board for too long and they continue to deny a vote on the second Democratic seat.