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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Progress Made Towards An Omnibus Funding Agreement And The Need To Pass Emergency Assistance For Ukraine And Our Response To COVID

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the bipartisan progress that Congress has made towards funding the government including emergency assistance for our response to COVID and for Ukraine. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Republicans and Democrats continue making good progress towards reaching a deal to fund the government. We are almost there; we are very, very close, and hopefully it will be done in the next few hours.  

This year, the spending bill comes at a consequential moment: war in Europe has focused the energies of Congress into getting something done, and getting it done fast, quickly.

But, one crucial element of the funding bill is getting less attention, as important as just about anything in this bill, and that is approving a new round of COVID preparedness funding.

For all the important priorities we must address in this spending bill, I believe the COVID funding will go down as one of the most important – one of the most important – elements of the omnibus, and I’ve been pushing really hard to get it done, working across the aisle to convince our Republican colleagues that we need it.

Now that all the federal COVID aid under the American Rescue Plan has run out, approving new COVID funding is about insurance: far better to prepare for new variants today than play a frantic game of catch-up tomorrow, when it would be too late.

We cannot let it be said that America – after the third or fourth variant hits our shores – is unprepared, does not have adequate testing, therapeutics, or vaccines. We cannot let that be said again. The first time it happened of course we were unprepared; we didn't know what had happened. But unfortunately, even in the second and third [wave], President Trump's administration was not very eager to move forward, tried to ignore it, said it didn't really present a danger, which of course it has.

So now Democrats and Republicans – thankfully – have come together, and both sides of the aisle have come to realize that new COVID funding today is about insurance: far better to prepare today than play a frantic game of catch-up tomorrow when it’s too late. The funding will support more vaccines, testing, therapeutics, and health care workers, and that’s why I have been pushing so hard to get it done.

Across the country, life is returning to normal thankfully: cases are falling, more people are going about without masks, restaurants, churches and stores are filling up. I see that in my hometown of New York. Most importantly, classrooms are full. Schools are staying open.

Now that we are turning the corner, now that we’re getting back to normal, the very last thing we can afford to do is let our guard down, lest a new variant comes back with a vengeance and catapults us all back to square one, a place we all do not want to be.

Sadly, we all know from experience that another variant is a very real possibility.

No one can say for certain how the virus will mutate, but today we have the tools and know how to fight this virus the minute it hits our shores, while preserving as much of normal life as possible. All that’s needed is the federal funding and over $15 billion of that funding will be in the omnibus bill. 

So that’s why I have pushed so hard to get COVID funding into the spending bill. I am encouraged to see that members have come around to recognizing its importance, and I hope we can get it done very, very soon.

Furthermore, I am pleased that we are likewise close, very close, to passing a strong and ample aid package that will help the people of Ukraine fight against Putin’s immoral war. They desperately need humanitarian aid, as millions of people are without food, without heat, without shelter, without medicine. They desperately need the arms to defend themselves against brutal Russian aggression, often viciously aimed at civilians who are escaping. We pledged to get something big done, and in the coming hours I expect that we will be able to announce that we have followed through.