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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On President Biden’s State Of The Union Address

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Biden’s State of the Union address last night. Senator Schumer focused on the need for unity on Ukraine, progress made in the fight against COVID, and legislation to lower costs for the American people. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last night, before a joint session of Congress, President Biden made the case to the nation and to the world that in the face of immense challenges, the United States remains strong and steady to meet the tests of our time.

In an hour-long speech delivered before a chamber that was much fuller than last year, President Biden demonstrated yet again the kind of leader he has been for all his life: optimistic, unifying, decent and honest – honest –  about where we are today and where we must go.

I applaud President Biden for laying out a bold, strong and comprehensive vision that will resonate with the vast majority of Americans.

In particular, I was glad the President focused on three important things: first, he united the parties in supporting Ukraine and against Putin; second, he showed how under Democratic leadership America has turned the corner on COVID, and third, he confronted the urgency of lowering costs for American families, something our caucus has been focusing on.

First, I was glad that President Biden united the room, the country, and the world in opposing Vladimir Putin and his savage assaults on Ukraine. It's obvious that the President's done an incredibly good job unifying the Europeans and the West as a united front against Putin. And that was felt by people on both sides of the aisle.

When the President called on the chamber to stand up and applaud Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador, the feeling in the room reminded me of the unity we all felt after 9/11. 

But just like in 9/11, that unity comes with a the sober recognition that the scale of Putin’s brutality in Ukraine is worsening. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported this morning that more than 2,000 civilians, 2,000 men, women, and children, children, have now been killed as a result of Putin's savage brutality. 

What is happening in Ukraine is carnage, and the blood of every one of those innocent people falls on the hands of Vladimir Putin and on his band of crony oligarchs. This evil man must be stopped.

In an important step, last night the Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that will protect America, our government, and our critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Finally! The holds were lifted from the other side of the aisle and we passed, unanimously, the cyber legislation.

It’s more important now than ever before, because Putin is brandishing a cyber weapon. Cyber warfare is truly one of the dark arts perfected by Putin’s authoritarian regime. It’s a weapon he’s happy to employ around the world.

When our authorities in the government know of these attacks, they can prepare against future attacks; they will know who is attacking, where they're attacking, how they're attacking, and that will allow them to strengthen our defenses against future cyberattacks. Many an industry, at times I believe, even the Chamber of Commerce was not for [cybersecurity] legislation. But the urgency of the moment, the need to protect ourselves from cyberattacks, finally the Senate rose to the occasion.

So I thank Senators Gary Peters and Rob Portman for getting this bill done. The passage of this bill was little noticed because it came right before Congress adjourned for the State of the Union, but it’s a giant step forward to protecting ourselves, and I’m glad that we got it done last night.

But of course we must do more.

The Senate must keep working on a bipartisan basis to pass a robust aid package in the upcoming omnibus, so we can send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine that we stand with them, and to Putin that we stand against him.

The quickest way we can assure that aid reaches Ukraine is through the omnibus, which needs to get done next week. So I'm glad that we seem to be having bipartisan support to get that done.

Second, I was also glad President Biden showed how the country, under Democratic leadership, is turning the corner in the fight against COVID-19. By passing legislation last year to fund vaccines, expand testing, and support our health care workers, we are beating this disease. 

And what the President said last night was absolutely correct: we cannot—we cannot—have COVID control our lives anymore, but neither can we let our guard down. Right now, as cases are dropping across the board, Congress must pass more funding for vaccines, testing, and therapeutics— therapeutics is a word for medication that helps alleviate the virulence of COVID. Very few people who take the therapeutics have to be hospitalized. And we have to assure that our doctors and nurses and health care workers are prepared in case another variant comes this way, so that we can stay as close to normal as possible even if another variant arrives.

We have to have an ample supply of vaccines, of therapeutics, of testing, ahead of time. We can't wait.

Some of our Republican colleagues seem to be saying, we don't need this now. We do need this now while we still have the chance – if Congress waits until another variant arrives, it will be too late.  

So let me say that again: even as cases drop across the board, we cannot be complacent against COVID – Congress must pass more COVID funding now so we can be ready by funding vaccines, testing, therapeutics, and supporting our health care workers. If Congress waits until another variant arrives, it will be too late.  

And so we need our Republican colleagues to join us in a bipartisan way, just as they are joining us on Ukraine.

Finally, I am glad that President Biden zeroed in on cutting costs for American families. A year into the President’s first term, the economy is surging and creating an unprecedented number of jobs.

But people are struggling because costs are also going up. Your wages are going up but if the costs keep going up, it eats up those wage increases. Now, why are costs up? Costs are up because of supply chain disruptions stemming from COVID and pent up demand as people during COVID didn’t buy a lot of things. All the while, Americans watch incredulously as some of our largest corporations are raising prices despite growing profits. In some cases, executives are seeing lavish pay increases. And in the end Americans are footing the bill.

Senate Democrats will not stand for this, and we are working with the President to lower costs and build upon the wage growth we’ve seen over the past year. We’re laser focused on reducing Americans’ costs: from lowering the costs of insulin so no one pays more than $35 a month, to lowering the costs of all prescription drugs, to lowering the cost of meat at the grocery store, to fixing our ocean shipping lines so the bottlenecks don’t raise their costs. Shipping costs have gone way up as the President mentioned.

And you know what else we could do to lower costs? We can innovate! Congress should continue working to finalize our bipartisan, bicameral jobs and supply chains bill, so we can boost American manufacturing, solve our chip crisis, and make our country less dependent on foreign tech companies.

In short, despite everything the world faces, President Biden reminded supporters and critics alike why the American people entrusted him with the presidency: he didn’t shy away from our challenges but rather advanced an optimistic and unifying plan for how to meet the moment.

Senate Democrats will continue working with the president to precisely move our country forward on lowering costs, on addressing COVID, and on defending democracy in this hour of peril.

I thank the President for his leadership, and let us continue in our work.