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
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
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
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
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
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
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.