Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, praising President Biden for his critical day one executive actions and calling for the speedy confirmation of President Biden’s national security and economic cabinet nominees. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday, we began a new chapter in the history of our nation. On the same steps stormed by domestic terrorists two weeks ago, we held a ceremony to the enduring power of our democracy. It was a symbol to the world that America is back, and a message to those domestic terrorists that they will never prevail.
Even as the festivities were in full swing, our new president, and this new Senate, commenced the work of rebuilding our country and healing its wounds.
With the stroke of a pen, President Biden started the process of rejoining the United States to the Paris Accords.
He extended the pause on student loan payments, put an end to the Muslim travel ban, reinstalled safeguards for our nation’s Dreamers, and put a halt on the ineffective border wall.
Crucially, President Biden signed a number of orders to refocus the federal government’s efforts on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The US has rejoined the World Health Organization. A mask mandate has been issued for all federal property. And President Biden has named a new coronavirus response coordinator to manage vaccine distribution, which is so desperately needed, to correct something which was such a failure under the Trump Administration.
Our country has suffered deeply from a chaotic, lackluster, and incompetent federal response to COVID-19. As we cross the grim milestone of 400,000—400,000—American fatalities from COVID, the Biden Administration is wasting no time in marshaling the resources of the federal government into action—and today released a national strategy to defeat the pandemic.
What a concept: a president who actually takes the defining crisis of our time seriously. What a change—and how great is the need.
Here in the Senate, the first order of business is to fulfill our Constitutional duty to advise and consent on the President’s appointments to his cabinet. Last night, the Senate confirmed the President’s selection for the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. We appreciate the bipartisan cooperation to get her confirmation done yesterday, and we should continue in that spirit today.
Traditionally the Senate has confirmed several national security nominees for an incoming administration during their first few days. Even as power changes hands from one Administration to the other, the work of keeping our nation safe must not be paused or be disrupted. Foreign adversaries will seek to exploit this period of transition and we cannot allow America’s military, intelligence, and national security policy to be disrupted by staffing delays.
In 2017, President Trump had his Defense Secretary and Secretary of Homeland Security in place on Inauguration Day. President Biden deserves his national security team in place as soon as possible, as well as key officials in charge of responding to the current health and economic crises.
With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, we can and should confirm the Secretaries of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury without much delay.
While national security is paramount, I’d remind my colleagues: we are in the middle of an economic crisis. The sooner we confirm a Treasury Secretary, the better.
And so, as we begin the process of bringing our country back together, let the first week of this Congress be a collaboration between our two parties to confirm President Biden’s cabinet.