Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to take up and pass the American Rescue Plan to lift the country out of the crisis, provide millions of vaccines in people’s arms, and set the economy on a path to a strong recovery. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
As the Senate prepares to take up the American Rescue Plan today, I want to remind everyone why we’re here.
The country is in the midst of a once-in-a-century crisis. Not once in a decade, not once in every fifty years. Once-in-a-century. It is a crisis that is still very much with us, and it is deadly, deadly serious. It has claimed more than 515,000 precious lives, across every part of the nation.
For the better part of a calendar year, businesses have had to close their doors and entire industries teetered on the brink of collapse. The economy has lost 10 million jobs since this time last year. Millions of Americans are thousands of dollars behind on the rent and on the utilities.
Folks are facing eviction. American families have had their water shut off, their heat shut off in the depth of winter, and the power cut during their kids’ first days of virtual kindergarten. Even as the vaccine is quickly making its way into Americans’ arms now that President Biden has taken the helm, tens of thousands of Americans continue to get sick every week, and we are racing against the clock to defeat the pandemic and to save American lives.
Now, Congress has come together on several occasions to pass emergency relief in this time of extraordinary crisis. In each case, we saw our economy recover—briefly—before worrying trends took hold again, showing the depth of the economic crisis. It’s not going to the be quick and easy to get out of.
After the CARES Act passed, our economy stabilized before dipping deeply again in the summer. After we passed another emergency bill in December, the January numbers looked positive, before once again slipping in recent weeks. Trusted economists, Treasury Secretary Yellen, Fed Chair Powell—both cautious, careful people—are telling us, plain as day, that the economy is not yet ready to stand on its own, that our recovery is deeply uncertain, that the risk of doing too little is far greater than doing too much.
We also arrived at this moment—about to take up the American Rescue Plan—because we remember what happened the last time our country faced a significant economic downturn.
Congress was too limited and constrained in its response to the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, and as a result, the country suffered a long, slow, painful recovery—a lost decade for many American families, creating anger, pessimism, a sourness in the land, that discombobulated our politics.
We are not going to make those same mistakes again.
We are not going to condemn millions of working Americans to another lost decade of tepid recovery.
We are not going to abdicate our responsibility to help the American people just because we’ve started to see the first hint that things aren’t as bad as during the very worst days of the pandemic.
Our mission—our mission—is to crush the virus now, get our country back to normal, and lay the foundation for our economy to come roaring back—roaring back.
That’s what the American Rescue Plan is designed to do, and the entire country has gotten behind it. Hundreds of the nation’s top business leaders support the plan. More than 400 mayors and local leaders from both parties, Democrats and Republicans, support the plan. The American people support the plan—including a clear majority of Democrats, independents, Republicans.
It seems the only group that opposes the bill are Republicans here in Washington.
And it's confounding. When Donald Trump was president, they were willing to vote for a total of over $3 trillion in aid. Now that President Biden is president, and the economy is in the same pickle, generally speaking, now they don't want to vote for a nickel. I wonder why. I wonder why.
And I have to say, a few of my Republican colleagues are going to some pretty ridiculous lengths to showcase their opposition to a bill the Economist has called “one of the most popular bills in decades,” a bill supported by a majority, a majority, of Republican voters. Not Republican Senators, but voters.
Yesterday, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, the same Senator who—last summer—proudly declared that he would oppose even “a dime” more in COVID relief, the same Senator who spent a Senate hearing on Capitol Security reading conspiracy theories into the record, and said that Jan. 6th wasn’t an armed insurrection—decided to make himself the face of Republican opposition to the bill by vowing to force the reading of the Senate amendment to the American Rescue Plan—in full—before we can proceed with the bill.
We all know this will merely delay the inevitable. It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks, who work very hard, day-in, day-out, to help the Senate function. And I want to thank our clerks, profoundly, for the work they do every day, including the arduous task ahead of them.
Still, we are delighted that the Senator from Wisconsin wants to give the American people another opportunity to hear what’s in the American Rescue Plan. We Democrats want America to hear what's in the plan. And if the Senator from Wisconsin wants to read it, let everybody listen because it has overwhelming support.
We want them to hear about the direct checks they’ll get, as promised, to help them keep up with the cost of groceries, medicine, and the rent.
About funding to expand testing and support the vaccine.
About the resources for schools to re-open quickly and safely as possible;
To keep firefighters, teachers, bus drivers, and first responders on the job;
About dollars to provide rental assistance to keep Americans in their homes;
About the help to the hardest-hit small businesses hang on until brighter days return.
Oh yes, when the senior Senator from Wisconsin reads, the American people will get another chance to hear about the tax breaks for low-income workers, and assistance for American families struggling with child care—two measures that help make the American Rescue Plan one of the single largest, anti-poverty bills in recent history.
And then, once the American people have heard, all over again, about the provisions that make this bill so popular; about the support that is going to lift the country out of the crisis, provide millions of vaccines in people’s arms, and set it on a path to a strong recovery, the Senate is going to move forward with the bill.
No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill—this week. The American people deserve nothing less.