Aug 10, 2020
Chuck Schumer Senate Floor Speech Transcript August 10: Coronavirus Relief
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor on August 10 about coronavirus relief and President Trump’s executive order. Read the transcript of the speech here.
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Speaker 1: (00:23)
The Democratic leader.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:24)
I ask unanimous consent, the quorum be dispensed with.
Speaker 1: (00:27)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:29)
Now, Mr. President, over the weekend, the United States achieved an ignominious milestone. 5 million Americans are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, by far the most in the world. Our country went from 4 million Americans having had the disease to 5 million in 17 days, only 17 days. 1 million Americans were infected in just 17 days. We’ve lost American businesses, American wealth, and an unbearable number of American lives. A number that will inevitably increase as the number of infections continues to rise. The brutal economic effect of the pandemic has spared no corner of our country. We’re living through the greatest economic crisis since the Depression and the greatest health crisis since the Spanish Flu in 1918. So it should not be hard to convince Republicans in the Senate and the White House to provide urgent and necessary relief to the American people.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:37)
The $3.4 million in the HEROES Act was based on the country’s needs, which is so large and so diverse. It’s not a political position. It’s what our country needs. It’s schools, it’s businesses, it’s renters, it’s homeowners, it’s essential workers, it’s post office, it’s elections, state local governments, our healthcare system. Leader McConnell doesn’t seem to understand this. He sees everything through a political lens. But we Democrats are looking at the real needs of people, and they’re large. There are in many different places, and that is why we called for a large bill because it was needed, because the American people demanded it. And at this point, the American people are on our side. Two-thirds, by survey data, support the $3.4 billion Democratic plan, not the skimpy Republican plan that doesn’t deal with people’s needs.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:39)
But at the end of last week, after days of arduous negotiations, Speaker Pelosi and I continued to run into Republican in transcendence. They didn’t see people’s needs the way we did. They didn’t see the depth and breadth of this crisis. So, like in any normal negotiation, we offered to move in their direction if they would move in ours. “Let’s meet in the middle,” we said. In the middle. That’s how negotiations occur. That’s how you get something done. The White House said no. It was difficult for us to offer that compromise. The Democratic position is that we want to devote enough resources to defeat the virus and see the American people through this crisis. The Republican position is to give much less than what’s needed.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:35)
Democrats don’t want to leave large portions of the country and the economy to fend for itself. But the reason we want to meet in the middle is that getting major legislation through Congress is the only way to achieve something significant for the American people. Rather than compromise, our Republican counterparts said, “Take a hike.” Quite literally, they said virtually this in the room, “No. It’s going to be our way or no way. We’re not going to meet you in the middle.” Why? Why wouldn’t they when the needs are so great, when there are so many people suffering and so many more who will suffer if we don’t act. Well, it’s because this Republican Party is so tied in a knot that it can’t agree to anything. It can only spewt the same political speech every day.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (04:36)
The Republican, Leader McConnell has admitted that 20 Republican senators won’t vote for any more relief for the American people. The Senate Bill that the leader keeps referring to, the Republican leader, lacks the support of Senate Republicans. He can’t bring it to the floor because so many of them will vote against it. The president himself called the Republican bill semi irrelevant. One of the few things that had some truth to it that he said about this crisis. It was not some possibility that Democrats blocked, Senate Republicans spiked it the moment it came out. Why? Maybe they thought that these executive orders would be a way out. So tied in a knot they can’t legislate or even bring themselves to join us to meet in the middle. They were clinging to the hope that the president could do something on his own through executive orders.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:35)
But as we have seen, executive orders in general aren’t going to get the job done, especially the incompetent ones issued over the weekend. President Trump’s recent executive orders are so unserious in terms of meeting the large needs of America as to be pathetic. Take for example the payroll tax deferral. It makes no sense. Even Republican members of Congress and according to reports, some members of the administration, opposed the payroll tax deferral because it would do next to nothing to help our workers or the economy. Remember, the president did not cancel payroll taxes. He can’t. He just deferred them. Most employers will continue to withhold the payroll tax so that their employees won’t be hit with a very large tax bill in December when the deferral expires. An ADP, a nonpolitical payroll processing company said, “It may take months to implement the president’s new policy.”
Senator Chuck Schumer: (06:48)
It feels like forever ago, but candidate Trump promised he was different from Republicans and would never touch social security or Medicare. Well guess what? Deferring the payroll tax is a backdoor way of weakening social security and Medicare. In case the president’s intentions weren’t clear, he said that after the election he may permanently cut the payroll tax, which would deplete the trust funds and destroy social security and Medicare as we know it. If you’re a senior or have paid into social security and Medicare and awaiting for it, watch out! Watch out! Seniors throughout the decades since we’ve had social security have jealously regarded the trust fund. And now Donald Trump says, “Well, maybe we should get rid of it. Because we shouldn’t defer, we should get rid of the payroll tax all together.”
Senator Chuck Schumer: (07:49)
This executive order is an example of many false promises that Donald Trump has made. And just as importantly, it is so put together with spit and glue that in all likelihood, many states won’t implement it at all. Some have said so. And many more, even if they want to implement it, will take months; several months while people will not get their unemployment benefits. The easiest thing to do for the good of the economy for keeping millions out of poverty, which the president on a pandemic unemployment insurance has done is simply to renew the existing unemployment insurance. But because of the hard right, because so many Republicans don’t want to spend the money, even for people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, doesn’t happen. And the idea that the American worker is looking for an out is demeaning to the American worker, Leader McConnell.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (08:58)
Americans want to work. There’s pride in work. The overwhelming majority of Americans, if given the choice of a job or unemployment insurance for a period of time, even if that unemployment insurance is not exactly what they got paid, will take the job. We know that. America believes in the work ethic. So, how demeaning to the American worker to say they’re looking for a way out, they’re looking for a way to skive the system. That’s not the American worker I know. That’s not the New York worker I know. But of course when unemployment is over 10%, you can be looking for a job but you may not get one. That’s the reason so many people are on pandemic unemployment insurance. So the president’s plan there was nothing short of a disaster in terms of its inability to be implemented, its effect on social security and Medicare, and the demeaning way in which it looks at the American worker.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (10:21)
The president’s executive order on evictions is the best example of all sizzle and no steak. It does not even guarantee a moratorium on evictions. It merely instructs federal agencies to quote, review and consider whether it’s appropriate to halt evictions, let alone people who have fallen behind on their rent. So, three of the things the president has done don’t work. The deferral of the payroll tax hurts social security and does not pump money into the economy. Cutting the employment on insurance will take weeks and months to implement and hurts American workers and demeans them. And the executive order on evictions is, “Let’s consider something.” Well, we know what that means in jargon around here. Let’s not do it. Let’s just talk about it. So President Trump’s executive orders are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go ask Republican senators from South Carolina and Nebraska who aren’t too thrilled with it either.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (11:57)
And of course the biggest problem with these executive orders is not what they do, but what they don’t and can’t do. The orders don’t address testing, tracing and treatment of COVID-19 desperately needed to curb the health crisis, which in turn is hurting the economy so badly. The order leaves out money to safely reopen our schools and provide the PPE and other help to keep kids, teachers and staff safe. The orders won’t give food assistance to hungry kids and families. The orders won’t aid state and local governments, firefighters, sanitation workers, bus drivers, healthcare workers. All the people who keep our communities running could lose their jobs. The orders leave out funds to ensure elections can be carried out safely amid COVID-19, and the orders do nothing to keep our post offices open and make sure our elections are conducted in a safe and sound manner during this COVID crisis.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:03)
The fact is we are facing an unprecedented crisis. The government is going to have to commit resources to fight this disease and the economic devastation it has brought. Executive orders cannot do that and therefore will always be insufficient, especially those crafted in such a poor way as these. The only way to crush the virus and truly protect American working families is to pass a comprehensive bill in Congress that is equal to the challenges facing our country. Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need our Republicans to join us there and meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people. We’re ready as soon as our Republican colleagues have come off this view that it’s their way or no way and meet us in the middle.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:58)
Now, before I yield the floor, I want to take a step back and talk about the core problem in our negotiations over the past few weeks. President Trump and the Republican Party, certainly in the Senate, are not alive to the suffering of the American people. The response from the White House to the greatest domestic challenge of the 21st century can be summed up in five words issued by President Trump in an interview last week. It is what it is. President Trump was challenged to defend his claim that COVID-19 is under control. How, he was asked. A thousand Americans are dying a day. President Trump’s response, “It is what it is.” It is what it is. That’s how the president of the United States of America responds to the harrowing fact that more than a thousand Americans are dying every single day from a virus his administration has failed to contain.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:03)
Not a morsel of empathy, not an ounce of sorrow, not a shred of remorse for the many mistakes his administration has made. The president says, “It is what it is.” What a shocking admission of presidential failure. We live in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth and yet countries around the world manage to test their citizens, isolate cases, stop the spread of the disease. Countries with bigger populations than ours and countries with a mere fraction of our resources and know how. President Trump’s response to this crisis is a national and an international embarrassment. The president says, “It is what it is.”
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:54)
President Trump is not the only one who dismisses the gravity of COVID-19. The lack of empathy and understanding starts at the top, but it goes all the way down. The president’s chief of staff said COVID-19 isn’t such a big deal for school children compared to the flu. Leader McConnell put the Senate on ice for four months in the middle of the global pandemic because his party, “Didn’t feel the urgency of acting.” His words. And now, by the leader’s own admission, more than a third of the Senate Republican caucus doesn’t want to vote for anything to help the American people.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:34)
The economy is failing. Small businesses are closing. State and local governments are cutting essential services. Americans can’t pay the rent and will be thrown out of their homes. Families can’t afford to feed their children. Essential workers don’t have PPE. We’re sending our kids back to school without a plan. The number of Americans we’re testing is going down. The disease is ravaging our nursing homes and Americans are dying, so many and so short a time that funeral homes and morgues are storing the dead in refrigerated 18 wheelers. And yet the president says, “It is what it is.” The president, his aids, his party in the Congress are not even awake to what’s happening in this country. That is the reason why Senate Republicans delayed for four long months. And that is the reason we’ve been unable to find agreement with the White House. I yield the floor.