Schumer Floor Remarks Announcing Senate Democrats Will Move For A Vote On The Heroes Act And On Senate Republicans’ Refusal To Support Legislation That Meets The Needs Of The American People After Five Months Of Leader McConnell’s “Pause” In COVID ReliefOctober 20, 2020
Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor as Senate Republicans planned another vote on their “emaciated” coronavirus response bill that fails to meet the needs of the American people. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of American life. Every aspect. Bottom line is very simple: the way Americans work, the way we send our kids to school, the way we run our businesses has all changed. COVID has derailed the economy. Millions of Americans have missed the rent, missed the mortgage, applied for unemployment, been forced to skip meals. American poverty is beginning to increase more dramatically. More than eight million have gotten sick, more than 220,000 have died.
The response here in Congress to a pandemic that affects our country in a way we haven’t seen in decades should be to comprehensively provide relief.
Our mission is not to pick out one or two industries and say ‘maybe later’ to the rest. We can’t privilege a small issue here or there and ask everyone else to wait. Our mission is to deliver big for a country, and a people, who are suffering direly. Our mission is to meet the needs of the country and leave no one, leave no one behind.
But Leader McConnell and the Republican majority have failed to grasp the gravity of the situation from the beginning. They put the Senate on “pause” for more than five months while cases went up and the death toll mounted. When the time came for them to pull together in August, they couldn’t even get Republican Senators to agree on one. Eight months into this long and brutal crisis, the Republican Leader is filled with stunts, and playing the smallest of small ball when so many are hurting.
Today, the Republican majority will try to force a stunt—not even a real vote—on a bill that leaves almost the entire country out of the picture. They are holding the vote over a backdrop of a dire increase in cases. The majority of states are seeing spikes right now. Half of all states have had their highest single day ever in total cases in the last month. Experts say we have hard months ahead of us, it’s possible the worst is yet to come, a second wave. We must act now to provide relief to the whole country.
And the Republican Leader and the Republican Senate is up to a stunt and not even negotiating or putting a bill on the floor.
The American people know it, they know who is to blame. They blame President Trump and the Republican majority. We know that. We know when it comes to COVID that the blame correctly falls on the shoulders of Leader McConnell and all his Republican Senators, who are afraid to do anything, who are divided.
When any time Secretary Mnuchin gets on the phone with them, they say don’t do anything, we’re too divided. Everyone knows that.
We must provide real relief. That’s what Democrats want to do.
But in the Republican proposal today, there’s no funding, zero funding, for testing or tracing, the best way to stop this COVID menace. And in the Republican bill tomorrow, the funding for testing and the plan for testing is so completely inadequate it’s laughable, especially given the recent spike in cases.
In the Republican proposal today, there is nothing for American families, schools, day care, or food assistance. They are left behind. All of them.
Renters, homeowners, folks struggling to keep a roof over their heads, they are left behind.
Americans who have lost their job through no fault of their own and need unemployment insurance, they are left behind in these Republican proposals.
State and local governments that are being forced to slash critical public services in the middle of a recession, they too are all left behind.
Even on the issue of small business – the issue on which the bill today is focused – it lacks specific funding for restaurants, independent theaters and music venues, local newspapers, TV and radio stations, critical need hospitals, minority owned businesses, and for all of our non-profits. In each of those areas in which the Republican bill is deficient, so many are left behind.
We have bipartisan support for programs that are not even being considered here today. And why is this? Why is Leader McConnell doing stunts?
The truth is, because Leader McConnell can’t pass anything on the floor, he is resorting a series of political stunts. That’s all, everyone knows it. The Republican Leader himself admitted that as many as twenty Republican Senators don’t want to vote for a “dime” more of relief for the American people.
So out of touch. So callous. So cruel.
So what we have here are a series of show stunt votes, designed to fail, because Republicans want them to fail. That’s not going to get the job done for the American people.
They can’t even get a real bill on the floor. The only bill they can pass are filled with poison pills that they know no Democrat will support in the House or Senate. That was the only way they could get them to vote even for this meager amount in tomorrow’s bill: by telling the big corporations no liability for you if you egregiously hurt a worker who has COVID. By telling wealthy parents you can pay for private school education with a complete tax break, free, but public schools get left out, middle class people get left out, poor people get left out. Wealthy people who send their kids to private schools, that’s it, while they refuse to give money to the public schools that need the money.
If Leader McConnell were serious, you know what they would be doing. He would be negotiating. He would not be saying I can’t negotiate, my caucus is divided. He would be leading, instead of following the 20 hard-right, cruel, callous thought that we shouldn’t spend any money. Let people suffer. I don’t want the government to do anything—when we all know the only real hope here is for a strong, active, and bold government-led program. The private sector can’t fight COVID alone. The private sector can’t get us out of this deep recession alone. We know that. But not the hard-right. They are stuck in their narrow ideological prison.
So, instead of these stunts, Senators today will have a chance to vote instead on moving to a real, comprehensive bill to address the current state of the country.
For months, Democrats have been pushing for the Heroes Act, a second installment of the kind of comprehensive COVID-relief we passed in the first bill that brought so much to people, helped them stay in their homes, brought pandemic unemployment insurance, helped our hospitals, helped local governments, helped do some testing – testing money, by the way, and tracing money, which the Trump Administration hasn’t even distributed to the states. It passed the House well over three months ago, and since then, Democrats have modified the bill to move closer to our Republican counterparts.
Still, Leader McConnell refuses to even bring it up for a vote in the Senate. So today, Democrats will move to have the Senate take a vote on the Heroes Act and we’ll see where every Republican Senator stands on real COVID-relief.
Unlike the partisan, emaciated Republican COVID-relief bill, the Heroes Act will not leave large portions of the country behind. It will not include poison pills like sweeping corporate immunity provisions that Leader McConnell has insisted on in every version of Republican legislation. It will deliver actual relief to American workers, American families, American states and localities, tribes. It provides assistance for food, rent, and housing, real funding for testing and tracing, unemployment insurance, and aid to small businesses of all kinds, not just a few.
This morning, a poll conducted by the NY Times and Siena Research showed that 72% of Americans—including a clear majority of Independents and Republicans—support another $2 trillion stimulus package. In other words, 72% support the Democratic plan to provide COVID relief. Even President Trump has told our Republican Senate colleagues to “go big or go home.”
If my Republican colleagues were listening to the American people, they would not be playing these partisan games around small-bore, stunt-driven COVID bills. They’d be working with Democrats on something that actually meets people’s needs. Instead, the Republican Leader is wasting the American people’s time on a vote he knows will fail. And he doesn’t even seem to mind.