Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Pass The Heroes Act And Fight The Coronavirus Following Months Of Needless Delays By Senate RepublicansJuly 20, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, urging Senate action on the House-passed Heroes Act and condemning the months of needless delays by Senate Republicans. He also decried the Trump administration’s ill-intentioned efforts to shield COVID data from the public and their abject failure to address the pandemic. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now, on another matter. It is rare we gather at the start of a work session with so much to do in so little time. As we speak, our country faces the greatest public health crisis since 1918, and the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression.
Earlier this year, COVID exploded through the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest before finally subsiding. The economic pain of those first few months—over 40 million newly unemployed—was incomprehensible. Now, states throughout the South and West are experiencing a similar surge in cases, hospitalization, and sadly, deaths, as the economic pain deepens.
While all of us have watched in horror as this crisis unfolds, Senate Democrats have repeatedly called for action on crucial issues like aid for state, local, and tribal governments; hazard pay for essential workers; funding for coronavirus testing and tracing; rental assistance; support for our nation’s childcare and education systems. Each time we sought to pass legislation on this issues, Senate Republicans blocked our attempts.
Senate Republicans said that we should, in the words of Leader McConnell, “hit the pause button.” Our Republican friends said they wanted to “assess the conditions in the country” before providing any more relief.
Our House colleagues passed the Heroes Act over sixty days ago. It has been well over three months—three long months—since we passed the CARES Act.
And what has happened in those three months?
Three months ago—on April 20th—the United States reported 775,000 total cases of COVID-19, with 42,000 deaths. Today, we now have nearly 3.8 million confirmed cases and 140,000 deaths.
Just over three months ago, about 30 million Americans had filed unemployment claims. And today that figure is nearly 50 million. More unemployment claims were filed in the last seventeen weeks than in the entire 18 month stretch of the Great Recession.
Today, the State of Florida has more infections per week than China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and the European Union—combined.
That is what has been happened while Senate Republicans have been “assessing the conditions in the country.” That’s what’s been happening while Senate Republicans have hit the pause the button.
And now we know the real reason for Republican inaction—why they have hit the pause button. They cannot come to agreement among themselves. The nation is raging in crisis. The Republican party has been paralyzed, stopping and blocking action the Democrats have sought to deal with the problem.
We may never know the true cost of Republican inaction over these past three months, but we do know that the time for waiting is over. We must consider another major COVID-relief package this work period.
Enhanced unemployment benefits expire at the end of the month. Protections against evictions expire this week. And schools are preparing for the fall without the necessary guidance and resources to open safely.
The country is crying out for relief. The needless delays, partisan politics, the infighting between the president and the Senate and House Republicans has got to stop.
But it seems that Leader McConnell has still not received the message. The Republican leader has said that he’s writing the next bill behind the closed doors of his office, and he will present it to his party first before dropping it on the Senate’s lap. This one-party approach is the same approach that delayed the passage of the CARES Act, delayed the passage of the subsequent emergency relief legislation, utterly failed on policing reform where the Republican bill was opposed by 136 civil rights organizations. For Leader McConnell to then get up and talk about that bill, when the people were marching for a much stronger bill, the Justice in Policing Act, when civil rights organizations were urging that we not move forward on that bill, it's twisting history in a way that no one is going to believe and history will never accept.
Each time Congress passed COVID relief legislation—all four times—we did it by coming together in a bipartisan fashion, between our two parties and between our two chambers. Leader McConnell three times tried to force a partisan bill down the Senate’s throat, and it backfired every time. Leader McConnell, It won’t work this time either.
Leader McConnell called for more bipartisanship this morning. That’s great, but Leader McConnell, sitting in your own office, writing a bill, and then demanding the other side support it is not anyone’s idea of bipartisanship.
And even worse, It appears that the developing Republican proposal is really unlikely to meet the moment. From what we understand from press reports, Leader McConnell’s bill will prioritize corporate special interests over workers and main street businesses—it will fail to adequately address the worsening spread of the virus.
There are currently between 20 and 30 million unemployed Americans, and from all accounts, the Republican bill will not do nearly enough for them. As Americans struggle to keep up with the rent, we are facing an avalanche of evictions. From all accounts, the Republican bill will not address that. According to reports, the Republican bill will come up short on hazard pay for essential workers, aid to state, local, and tribal governments, investments in communities of color ravaged by the virus.
If the reports are accurate, the Republican bill will not come close, not even come close, to meeting the moment of this great crisis.
The truth is, we have a good product to start with: the Heroes Act. It’s already passed the House. (And by the way Leader McConnell, We need the House to make a law.) And unlike the bill Leader McConnell is preparing, it actually matches the scale of the crisis, and will put workers and small businesses and our health needs before corporate special interests.
Just to give you an example of where Republican priorities are right now: late last week, it was reported that the Trump Administration wants to block tens of billions of dollars in the next COVID bill for states to conduct testing and contact tracing.
Let me repeat that: When every expert says our lack of testing and contact tracing has led to the crisis being much greater in the U.S. than in most their countries, President Trump wants to block that money for testing and contact tracing. And if past is prologue, our Republican colleagues, so afraid of standing up to President Trump even when they know he’s wrong, will let him win the day or at least let him whittle down the needs that we have on tracing and testing.
This report came just days after we heard that the Administration has ordered hospitals to stop reporting COVID data to the CDC, and instead report them to state health departments or to other portals more easily controlled by the White House.
If there was ever proof positive that the President is more worried about his image and political interests than the health and safety of the American people, this is it—hiding data from the Centers for Disease Control! It’s hard to believe. This man is not a leader. You can’t hide from the truth. The coronavirus will continue to ravage us whether the reports are public or not. But if the reports are public, we’ll all know more on what to do. Has not the president learned? Have not the Republican Senators learned that hiding from the truth just makes things worse? That’s why so much of the blame, according to the American people, for what has happened falls on the shoulders of the president and the Republican Senators who follow him blindly and obediently.
It’s hardly, and it’s unfortunate, it’s hardly the only example of the President’s abject failure to lead our nation through this awful crisis.