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Majority Leader Schumer Remarks On The Urgent Need To Begin the Process of Passing COVID Relief Legislation By Advancing the Budget Resolution Today

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to move forward with this budget resolution as a step in delivering the legislative tools to get bold relief to the American people.  Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Even as we continue to confirm President Biden’s nominees, the Senate will turn this week to the historic task of preparing a rescue package to lift our country out of the depths of the awful COVID-19 pandemic and set our country back on the path to normalcy.

Despite the best efforts of Congress over the past year, the needs in our country are still great and still urgent.

The disease has been with us for nearly a year, and yet this January was officially the worst month to date—nearly 100,000 Americans died just in the last month. Unemployment insurance claims remain at nearly a million per week. Schools remain closed, businesses unvisited, and all the familiar fixtures of daily life still remain on hold. All of us in this chamber are tired of seeing our constituents, our friends, our family, our country, suffer. It’s time to meet the challenges of the moment with boldness, with courage, with urgency.

When Congress came together to pass an interim emergency relief bill in December, we all knew the job wasn’t complete. Economic experts and the President-elect at the time called it an important down payment, because that’s what it was: a down payment, not a final act. No one should be surprised that the first legislative act of the new Democratic majority is to build on that foundation and help the country defeat COVID-19 once and for all.

So the Senate is going to move forward this week with the process for producing the next bold rescue package. Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and I filed a joint budget resolution for the 2021 Fiscal Year, totaling $1.9 trillion, which will give us another legislative tool to pass a COVID relief bill quickly and decisively. The Senate will vote to proceed on the budget resolution this afternoon. Time is a luxury our country does not have.

And let me be very clear, Mr. President: we are not going to dilute, dither, or delay. The needs of the American people are so demanding. We need to think big and act quickly. The Senate must move forward today with the vote to begin debate on the budget resolution—and I’m optimistic that the motion to proceed will pass.

I would say to my Republican colleagues that we want this important work to be bipartisan. We welcome your ideas, your input, your revisions. We welcome cooperation. There is nothing about the process of a budget resolution, or reconciliation for that matter, that forecloses the possibility of bipartisanship. I’d remind the chamber that, since 1980, the budget process has been used 17 times—17 times—to pass serious bipartisan legislation. This process is open to bipartisanship.

So let me be clear to my colleagues this morning: there will be a bipartisan, open amendment process on the Budget resolution this week. The Democrats eagerly encourage participation from both sides of the aisle to this proposal.

Again, there’s nothing about the process itself that prevents bipartisanship. What has made recent reconciliation efforts by Senate Republicans so partisan was not the process, but the legislation they sought to pass.

I heard the Senator from Texas crying crocodile tears about using reconciliation, but just a few years ago he was an active participant in using it twice to pursue expressly partisan and deeply unpopular legislation: first, to repeal our nation’s health care law and kick millions of Americans off of their health care coverage, and second, to slash taxes for big corporations and the wealthy, to the tune of a $1.7 trillion bill and hole in our deficit. Of course, Democrats opposed those efforts on the merits.

At the moment, however, we’re talking about using the process to help small businesses, something we all support.

We’re talking about using the budget process to speed the production and distribution of a vaccine that everyone champions and everyone knows is the key to ending the crisis. We’re talking about using the budget process to get our country back on its feet and our economy back on track.

We want this entire effort to be bipartisan—we do. But helping the American people with the big, bold relief they need, that is job number one. That is job number one.

So again: we’re not going to dilute, dither, or delay because the demands of the American people are so real and so large. We need to think big and think quickly.

Helping the millions of Americans who are still without work by extending the enhanced unemployment benefits that are now slated to expire in March;

Helping parents waiting for the day their kids can finally go back to school safely;

Helping teachers, firefighters, bus drivers and other essential public employees at the state and local levels from the risk of layoffs;

Helping restaurants and bars and theaters who were the first to close and may be the last to open;

Helping every American struggling to make ends meet, to pay the rent, pay the mortgage, pay for groceries, keep up with that utility bill—by sending them direct assistance in the form of a check.

That’s job number one: helping the American people survive the toughest months of this crisis while hastening the end of the crisis itself.

In the months to come, millions of Americans will be vaccinated, and slowly but surely, life will return to normal once again.

The rescue plan proposed by President Biden, the rescue plan that we begin to work on this week, will lay the foundation for our country’s long-awaited comeback, while giving Americans a helping hand to stay safe and stay financially secure in the meantime.

I look forward to proceeding with this budget resolution, and on the work of making this historic and vital rescue package a reality so it works for the American people.