Schumer Floor Remarks Calling On President Trump To Get His Act Together On Coronavirus

February 27, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s inadequate funding request for emergency coronavirus funding and outlined Congressional action to combat the disease. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last night, in California, an American was diagnosed with the first reported case of coronavirus unrelated to any travel to an infected area—a sign that coronavirus is here, on our shores, and we must act swiftly and strongly to contain its spread.

Despite months of public warnings about the danger of this disease, the president was caught completely flat-footed by the coronavirus.

And now, instead of quickly marshaling the resources of the federal government to respond to this health crisis, President Trump is intent on blaming everyone and everything instead of solving the problem. Instead of stepping up to the plate, he’s belittling the urgency of this problem and telling people, it’s not very much. The experts say the opposite.

As for blame, the president is blaming the press for stoking concern about the virus. The president is blaming social media for magnifying those legitimate concerns. And the president, typically, is blaming Democrats too.

But who fired the global health security team at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security—and decided not to replace them? It wasn’t the press. It wasn’t the Democrats. It was President Trump.

Who cut $35 million from the infectious disease rapid response fund? President Trump.

Who cut $85 million from the emerging infectious diseases account? President Trump.

Who cut $120 million from public health preparedness and response programs? President Trump.

And who just proposed cutting 16% of CDC’s budget? The agency in charge of fighting these kinds of viruses. Not the Democrats. Not the press. President Trump did that.

Of course Democrats want to work quickly with the president to get a handle on this problem. Lives are at stake. But the president cannot belittle the danger. It is real. It is looming. It is serious. And to hear the president last night—where most of his speech was not a sober speech, calling America to unite and fight this virus—it was mainly name-calling, politics, blaming, and in fact belittling the problem and the danger.

The president must stop trying to minimize the nature of the coronavirus threat. His attempts at spinning the facts are just not credible, and they are harmful to the federal response. In order to prevent overreaction by the public, it is essential that the federal officials, especially the President and Vice President, level with the American people. Telling the American people the truth—and then coming up with solutions to solve it—is the way to calm people down. Not simply saying don’t worry about it and then blaming others. That’s not going to calm people down, that’s going to make them more worried.

So let’s let the science and the facts guide us. The American people do not need or want uninformed opinions or spin from its leaders. They want the truth.  

Now, the first step the Congress must take is to ensure the government has the resources needed to combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe. I have made a request for $8.5 billion for this purpose, far more than the administration’s request of $2.5 billion, only half of which is new funding. The rest of the president’s proposed funding is stolen from other accounts.

Any emergency funding supplemental the Congress approves must be entirely new funding – not stolen from other accounts – and include, at minimum, strong provisions that ensure that:

  1. That the president cannot transfer these new funds to anything other than coronavirus and American and global preparedness to combat epidemics and infectious diseases;
  2. Vaccines that are affordable and available to all who need them, not just to those who have a good deal of money;
  3. Interest-free loans be made available for small businesses impacted by the outbreak; and
  4. State and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Democrats in both chambers will work closely with Republicans to pass a supplemental appropriations package with these criteria in mind. But in the meantime, President Trump must get his act together. Stop blaming, stop belittling, roll up your sleeves, unite America, and start proposing real solutions.

After months of dithering, after towering and dangerous incompetence, it’s time for President Trump to roll up his sleeves and do the right thing.