Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding moving forward with the COVID relief bill that will deliver aid to small businesses, facilitate vaccine distribution, and provide direct relief to struggling Americans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
While the Senate will be busy fulfilling its constitutional duty to advise and consent on presidential nominees, Democrats remain hard at work preparing the desperately-needed COVID-relief bill.
Our country is still in the throes of crisis. Yesterday, we passed that grim milestone, 500,000 deaths, a towering and incomprehensible figure. Millions of Americans have reported being thousands of dollars behind on rent, on utilities. Small businesses are hanging on for dear life. Vaccinating 330 million Americans as efficiently as possible is one of the most crucial and complex undertakings of our times.
What we need to do now is put our foot on the gas to end the pandemic as quickly as possible, get our economy back to normal, and repair the damage that’s been done.
That’s what the American Rescue Plan is all about.
It will deliver the resources to keep small businesses afloat; Americans in their homes; and teachers, firefighters, and other essential employees in the public sector on the job. It will send a direct check to Americans struggling with a once-in-a-lifetime financial burden. It will boost vaccine distribution. And it will provide funding and guidance for schools to re-open as quickly and safely as possible.
That last point, in particular, should appeal to my Republican friends, who have been raising concern about school closures. We all want the schools to re-open safely. We are all worried about the cost of virtual learning on children and parents.
The solution is simple. It’s not giving a speech here on the Senate floor. It’s not criticizing teachers or school administrators. It’s giving school districts the funding they need to re-open safely. It’s expensive—expensive—to re-open safely during the COVID crisis. We want to do it as quickly as possible.
And it’s hard to understand, our Republican friends are saying open up the schools, but I won’t vote for any money for the schools to do just that. It’s a complete contradiction.
The Republican position seems to be that these difficult challenges will fix themselves; that we don’t need any more aid, we did enough already.
Anyone who knows anything about schools knows that in the vast majority of schools in this country, is just not the case.
So let our Republican friends put their votes where their speeches are in helping the schools, in getting the money, in opening the schools safely. Not in simply trying to make a political point, and then trashing the schools without giving them the money they need. It makes no sense whatsoever, it’s a total contradiction.
Also, if we don’t act, enhanced unemployment benefits will expire for millions of Americans in need. If we don’t act, millions of struggling American families will miss out on direct payments and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. If we don’t act, we risk the same long, slow, and painful recovery we experienced after the financial crisis in 2008, when Congress did too little to get our country back on track.
The worst thing we could do would be to slow down now, before the race is won. And we will not do that.
Later this week, the House—and soon thereafter the Senate—will start working on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Mayors, governors, and economists from across the political spectrum agree it should be a sizeable effort. Treasury Secretary Yellen told us that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Federal Chairman Powell warned that we are “a long way off from a full recovery” and that the greater risk lies in doing too little rather than doing too much. Most importantly, the American people, in poll after poll, overwhelmingly approve of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
One of the last polls I saw showed a majority of Republicans voters, citizens, Americans agree with this plan.
The nation understands we are not out of the woods yet, and that Congress should do what’s necessary to finish the job. Where are our Republican friends?
As I have said from the start, Democrats remain committed to working with our colleagues from the other side of the aisle to improve the bill. But at the end of the day, the American people sent us here with a job to do, and the clock is ticking. Democrats will not wait to move forward with the American Rescue Plan, and taking the next important step in getting our country back to normal.