Schumer Floor Remarks Laying Out The Failures Of The Republican COVID Proposal To Meet The Needs Of The American People And Calling For Serious, Bipartisan Negotiations To Pass A Bill That Does

July 28, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor and laid out the shortcomings of the Senate Republican proposal to meet the needs of the American people while showering benefits on big corporations. Senator Schumer also called for serious, bipartisan negotiations to pass a comprehensive bill that addresses the COVID public health and economic crises. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
 
Yesterday, after putting the Senate on “pause” for three months, and after months of blocking nearly every Democratic attempt to pass legislation related to coronavirus, Senate Republicans finally revealed their long-overdue proposal for the next phase of COVID-relief.
 
In my many years of serving in this chamber, I have never seen a Republican Majority—or a Senate majority of any type—respond to a national emergency in such a disorganized and disoriented fashion. Weeks of infighting among Senate Republicans and the White House caused unnecessary and harmful delays. Instead of presenting a single, unified bill, Republicans released several separate drafts last night, and there might be more today. They can’t agree on one bill. They can’t get 51 votes for anything that’s comprehensive, that deals with the problems—the very real problems—that the American people face.
 
And even before Republicans announced their bills, senior Republican Senators admitted that they lacked the full support of Republicans. Two Republican chairmen have said that probably half of the Republican Senate will vote against their own proposals.
 
Worst of all, the Republican plan falls dreadfully short: it is un-unified, unserious, completely unsatisfactory.
 
My Republican friends, this is the greatest crisis America has faced in generations. A hundred years since the last health crisis of this magnitude, 75 years since the Great Depression, and you are paying attention to your corporate friends and not answering the needs of the people.
 
We Democrats want a real bill that answers peoples’ needs, that deals with the serious problems we face. That’s what we’re fighting for. We’ll keep fighting for it. And our Republican friends are nowhere to be found.
                                
While the Republican proposal fails to provide crucial relief for families, workers, and the unemployed, it is littered with corporate giveaways, K-street handouts, and presidential pet projects.
 
The Republican bill includes a $20 billion slush fund for large agribusinesses and tax breaks for three-martini lunches, but it doesn’t provide a dime in food assistance for hungry kids.
 
It includes an unprecedented, sweeping provision to shield corporations (for five years) from liability for the negligent treatment of workers and consumers, but there’s no new sweeping provision to shield Americans from evictions or foreclosures.
 
It includes a $30 billion wish list for defense contractors but no funding to make sure Americans can vote safely in November.
 
There are reports that the Republican proposal may include a provision to lower capital standards at Wall Street banks, but nothing to help state, local, and tribal governments keep teachers and firefighters and bus drivers on the job.
 
Senate Republicans managed to sneak in nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds for a new FBI building whose location will increase the value of the Trump hotel and enrich the president and his family.
 
Yup. In this proposal, Senate Republicans reward the president and his family’s business interests but not our essential workers.

Who, my Republican friends, needs the help more?

President Trump—who proudly claims he is a billionaire—or a worker who is about to lose his job, a small business person whose business is going under, a family that can't feed hungry children?

Who needs the help more? Them or President Trump?

Perhaps worst of all, in the middle of a pandemic, Senate Republicans and the White House want to give out-of-work Americans a 30% pay cut.
 
If you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own, and you can’t go back to work because the administration bungled this crisis, Senate Republicans propose taking $1,600 out of your pocket every single month.
 
Let me show my colleagues what New Yorkers think of the Republican proposal: “Let' em Eat Cake, GOP Plan Slices $600 Check, Rejects Aid To States.” Let them eat cake. That's what New Yorkers think. That's what New Yorkers think. That's what Americans think. Let them eat cake. Shame, shame on our Republican friends.
 
The cover of the New York Daily News sums it up: “let them eat cake.” Let them eat cake sums up the Republican proposal in response to the greatest economic crisis in seventy five years: “let them eat cake.”
 
People can't feed their kids, people are losing their homes, getting kicked out of their apartments. Small businesses are going under. Republican response: let them eat cake.
 
Who are Republicans fighting for in this proposal?
 
Tax breaks for three-martini lunches but no food assistance for the poor?
 
Immunity for corporations but no immunity for Americans facing eviction or foreclosure?
 
20-30 million unemployed Americans and Republicans say: take a 30% pay cut.
 
Who are Republicans fighting for in this proposal?
 
If you are a big bank, a defense contractor, or a member of the Trump family, the Republican proposal has some good news for you. But if you can barely afford the rent, can’t find work, can’t feed your kids and are fighting for your family’s future, this Republican plan leaves you out in the cold.
 
The consequences of the Republican policy on unemployment alone would be disastrous. Those enhanced benefits have kept 12 million Americans out of poverty. Those enhanced benefits are the one bright spot in this declining economy, that consumer spending is going up now, in large part because of pandemic unemployment insurance, as well as PPP.
 
One of the few things that's kept our economy from deteriorating further is that these unemployment benefits have boosted consumer spending. That’s why economists say the Republican proposal would cost us over a million jobs this year, and 3.4 million jobs next year.
 
The Republican proposal is causing us to lose even more jobs.
 
States have warned us the Republican plan is virtually unworkable to boot. We called state unemployment offices yesterday to ask them what would happen if the Republicans passed this new scheme. One state office simply said “chaos, chaos.”
 
Office after office said it would take weeks, weeks, months to even implement the new plan. And what are people going to do during those weeks and months when they're not getting unemployment insurance?
 
This idea on the Republican side that we have to slash unemployment benefits because otherwise Americans won’t go back to work is greatly exaggerated. Americans want to work, are ready to work, are desperate to get back to work.
 
Such little faith in the American people. Such a bad outlook on human nature. People want to work, Republican friends. They just don't have jobs to do it. We're not going to let them starve while that happens.
 
God forbid we provide tens of millions of unemployed Americans a lifeline until we can defeat this disease and get our economy back on its feet, seems to be the Republican attitude. That the Republicans seem to think the American people are a bunch of loafers. Well, they are not.
 
Now, we Democrats want to get something done. We are certainly frustrated with the dithering, the disunity, and the lack of understanding of the depth of the crisis coming from the Republican side. But that will not stop us.
 
We must press on with bipartisan negotiations. Time is running out and we cannot afford to fail.
 
But the Republican new proposal is not an adequate starting point. And history is repeating itself.
 
Each time we came together in the past to pass COVID-2, COVID-3, COVID 3.5, it was because both parties sat down with each other to negotiate and did the hard work.
 
But that was only after Republicans dared us and put an inadequate proposal on the floor and said, we'll blame you. We held firm. They came back. We negotiated a much better bill. My hope—my belief—is that they will have to do that again.
 
Leader McConnell is in his Alice in wonderland characterizations here on the floor. I can't believe them.
 
He keeps insisting that a “bipartisan spirit” led to the CARES Act, but he conveniently skips over the part where he dropped a partisan bill on the floor and Democrats had to insist on continuing negotiating to make the bill better. There’s a lot of revisionist history going on on the other side.
 
And this morning, Leader McConnell continued with his Alice-in-Wonderland logic: suggesting that Democrats are going to be the ones standing in the way of more relief.
 
Let’s not forget, Republicans dithered for three months while Democrats pleaded for action on COVID.
 
Speaker Pelosi and I wrote to Leader McConnell three weeks ago and said, let's sit down and talk. We didn't hear a peep out of him.
 
And when they finally woke up to the calamity in our country, they bickered amongst themselves for a week as the country approached several cliffs (unemployment, evictions, state and local government and more). And now that Republicans finally have a proposal, it’s corporate focused, doesn’t meet the needs of the American people, and half of their own caucus probably won’t support it anyway!
 
Leader McConnell a few minutes ago said if Democrats don't want to negotiate a bill. I will remind the Leader: last night, Chief of Staff Meadows, Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and I were in the Speaker’s office negotiating. Why didn’t they bring Leader McConnell along? Because Senate Republicans couldn’t get their act together and produce a unified position.
 
So Leader McConnell, I have a suggestion. Instead of blaming Democrats, how about Senate Republicans and Leader McConnell get their act together, roll up their sleeves and actually get to do real work and solve these problems.
 
Every time—every time—we’ve come to pass critical relief, Democrats have forced our Republican colleagues and the White House to come to the table and negotiate in a serious way. That’s what we have to do again. We need bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to produce a bill that actually meets the needs of the American people. We Democrats will continue to do that.
 
Speaker Pelosi and I will be meeting with Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows again tonight in an effort to try and get a bill because the needs of the American people, the American economy, American health are so great. Let us come together and get something done. America desperately needs our help.
 

###