Schumer Floor Remarks On How Republican Delays And Disarray Are Preventing Needed Assistance To The American People Who Continue To Struggle Through The Coronavirus Economic And Public Health Crisis

July 22, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, outlining how Republican delays and disarray are preventing needed assistance to the American people who continue to struggle through the public health and economic crises brought forth by COVID-19. Senator Schumer also urged Senate action on the House-passed Heroes Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Democratic Senators returned to Washington on Monday prepared to work in a bipartisan way on the next phase of coronavirus relief. After stalling for months while COVID-19 surged in more than 40 states, Senate Republicans finally said that now – the end of July, more than three months after the CARES bill passed – would be the time for another emergency relief bill.
But here we are: it’s the middle of the week and the Republican Party is so disorganized, chaotic, and unprepared that they can barely cobble together a partisan bill in their own conference.
Leader McConnell’s speech was indicative. He rants and raves about The New York Times and cancel culture. Not a word about COVID-19. People are ready to lose their unemployment benefits, to lose their apartments, and be evicted. Local governments are laying off people because they don’t have the dollars.
We’re in a national crisis. We don’t hear a word out of Leader McConnell as we’re on the edge of so many cliffs. Instead, lots of talk about The New York Times and cancel culture. That may be fodder for the far-right. That is not what America needs.
When Leader McConnell at this crucial moment can’t even mention COVID, it shows what a knot the Republicans are tied in.
The bottom line is this: the White House Chief of Staff said that Republicans “were on their own 20-yard line” when it comes to their legislative proposal. Their own 20 yard line. Two months and a week after we passed the COVID-3 bill, after millions more Americans applied for unemployment, after many small businesses went under, and many more died and were hospitalized as COVID rages in many southern states, we're still on the 20-yard line?
Where have the Republicans been? I have never seen a political party in the middle of a crisis so tied in a knot that the Majority Leader can’t even mention it in his speech and spends time ranting against favorite targets of the far-right and can't come up with a proposal.
This isn’t a game. This isn’t the typical Republican dysfunction about whether or not they did or didn’t see the president’s last tweet. The disarray on the Republican side has real consequences. Americans will suffer unnecessary pain and uncertainty because of it. The only reason there hasn’t been another relief package in Congress already is because of this Republican incompetence and reckless delay.
Even after all these months, the White House and Senate Republicans are starkly divided about what to do. The White House is insisting on policies, like a payroll tax cut, that would do nothing to help millions of unemployed Americans and that many Senate Republicans don’t even support.
Republicans can’t seem to agree on whether to provide any new aid for state and local governments, or the states should be able to more flexibly use the support we’ve already given.
A few of my friends on the other side hardly want to spend any more money to help our country in this once-in-a-generation crisis because it might add to the national debt. Giant corporate tax cuts—$1.5 trillion to $2 trillion of them—that’s okay, but fighting the greatest public health crisis in a century and forestalling a depression—that’s a bridge too far?
Where are the priorities on the other side of the aisle? Well, I guess they are for helping big corporate fat cats, wealthy people, but not average people who are hurting.
That's the trouble with the Republican party.
Seriously, there are only three weeks left until the August work period and Republicans are still in the opening phases of preparing their bill?
We don’t have time for this mess that the Republicans are in. The moratorium on evictions we passed in the CARES Act expires in two days. The WSJ reports that nearly 12 million adults live in households that missed their last rent payment, and 23 million have little or no confidence in their ability to make the next one.
Next week, the enhanced unemployment benefits we passed in the CARES Act will expire while 20 to 30 million Americans are still without work. A recent study showed that those enhanced benefits prevented nearly 12 million Americans from slipping into poverty. 12 million. And because Republicans can’t get their act together, those benefits might expire next week.
Congress needs to act quickly. Senate Republicans and the White House need to get on the same page, produce a proposal, not just drop it on the floor, but start negotiations with Democrats in earnest. Or better yet, we could start negotiations on the Heroes Act, which has already passed the House, and unlike the developing Republican proposal, would actually match the scale of this crisis.
Now, yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and I met with Chief of Staff Meadows and Secretary Mnuchin. Even with all this chaos, we’ve had some indications about what the Republicans are trying, trying, to do in their bill. Over the weekend, we heard that the administration was trying block—block—additional funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing. President Trump has also ended the CDC’s data collection efforts, potentially risking access to data that public health experts so vitally need.
So when we met with Chief of Staff Meadows and Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and I told them to back off these counterproductive and dangerous ideas. Additionally, we’ll be sending a letter to the Administration to demand answers on how data is being reported to the White House, as well as pushing for legislation in the upcoming bill to ensure that COVID-19 data is fully transparent and accessible, without any interference from the administration.
We know President Trump likes to hide the truth. He thinks when the truth doesn’t come forward, he thinks when he muzzles government officials, that it changes things. It doesn’t.
The virus still rages and will rage unless we do something about it, not simply hide the statistics that show its depth and mendacity. And we will make sure those statistics will be made public. So all of America, including the president, will know how bad the situation is. Because that’s what we need, the truth, to set us free and then to act on it.
Let me repeat that: if the administration refuses to reverse course, Democrats will insist on data transparency in the next COVID-relief bill.
All of our efforts to bolster the economy, help the unemployed, save small businesses, and ensure our children are safe at school will be meaningless if we don’t stop the spread of the virus. Hiding COVID data from the CDC and foot-dragging on more testing and tracing is absolutely incomprehensible, and imperils everything else we’re working on.
So we need to make a law, we need to make it quick. But right now, the infighting and partisanship on the Republican side—and cockamamie ideas like hiding data from the CDC—are only adding to the delay.
Now, yesterday, we also the saw the return of President Trump’s coronavirus press briefings.
It is remarkable that President Trump has lowered the bar so much that his performance yesterday was seen as a change in tone. It is a very sad state of affairs in our country when one day of the president reading statistics is hailed as leadership when that's what he should have been doing all along.  That the mere acknowledgement by the president that COVID-19 is raging through our country is some kind of breakthrough? Is that what people believe? Is that what President Trump wants the people to believe? That's crazy.
The truth is, every time the president takes the podium, he is a risk to public health.
Six months into the coronavirus, and the president has only just come around to the idea that wearing masks might be a good idea. He deserves criticism for that belated admission, not praise.
Six months into the crisis, and the President said yesterday the administration said they are “in the process of developing a strategy that’s going to be very, very powerful.” Six months in. Countries in Europe and East Asia developed national testing regimes ages ago and that's why they are ahead of us in fighting this crisis.  Americans must be hanging their heads in shame and disbelief that this administration is still trying to sort out the basics. When he says he's going to sort out the basics months and months too late as the crisis has raged, he should get praise? No, he should be criticized because he hasn’t done what he has supposed to have been doing for months.
President Trump started his press conference by labeling COVID-19 the “China virus” – which shows the president is still trying to deflect blame and play political games with this deadly serious virus, games that are decisive.
The truth is, more than anything or anybody else, the responsibility for America’s failure to deal competently with COVID-19 falls squarely on President Trump’s shoulders. It’s long past time for the president to start acting like it.