Sep 10, 2020
Senators McConnell, Thune, & Schumer Senate Floor Remarks Transcript September 10: Covid Relief
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator John Thune, & Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor on September 10 about the proposed coronavirus relief bill and negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Read the transcript of their remarks.
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Senator Mitch McConnell: (00:00)
… home right now, to help our nation project power and protect our homeland. We did what Americans do. We stayed strong. We stuck together and we rolled up our sleeves and we rebuilt. Some rebuilt their lives. Others rebuilt buildings. Some put on the uniform and rebuilt peace and security with their own hands. May we never failed to honor them. And may we never tire of the toughness, vigilance and persistence, it has taken and will continue to take, to make our pledge, never again a reality.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (00:44)
Now Madam President, on an entirely different matter, Congress has spent months talking, talking about whether to give the American people more relief as they continue grappling with this pandemic. Today, we’re going to vote. Today, we’re going to vote. Every Senator will be counted. Should we move forward with the floor process to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars more for kids, for jobs, and for healthcare? Should we at least vote to move forward and have this debate out in the open? Or do our Democratic colleagues prefer to hide behind closed doors and refuse to help families before the election? Well, we’ll find out in a couple of hours. Republicans have tried repeatedly to build on the CARES Act and get more help out the door to American families. Democrats have blocked us at every turn. They’ve invented different excuses each time. A few months ago, Speaker Pelosi wrote a massive multi-trillion dollar liberal wishlist, that even her own House Democratic members said would never become law.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (01:57)
“The HEROES Act went too far,” “a political wishlist,” those were quotes from House Democrats. But in July when Senate Republicans put forward a serious offer, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leaders said they would not even talk, not even talk, unless we started with that unserious bill. No help for families, unless they got to pass the absurd bill, their own Democratic members had ridiculed. So in August, Republicans tried something else. We proposed breaking off some of the most urgent, most bipartisan policies and agreeing wherever we could, on unemployment insurance, the paycheck protection program. But Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leader blocked that too. They said they didn’t want to do anything piecemeal. Piecemeal, they said. And yet, just a few weeks later, Speaker Pelosi completely contradicted herself, rushed back to Washington to pass a total piecemeal bill that only helped the Postal Service and did nothing for working families. Contradiction after contradiction, excuse after excuse. While working families have suffered and waited and wondered whether Washington Democrats really care more about hurting President Trump than helping them through this crisis. My Democratic colleagues should stand up and tell the American people which elements of our multi-hundred billion dollar proposal, they actually oppose. Let me say that again. They should stand up and tell the American people which parts of the proposal, we’ll vote on later today, they’re actually against. Today, we’re going to vote to extend the additional federal unemployment insurance. Democrats vote against that? Thanks to Senator Collins and Senator Rubio, we’re going to vote on a whole second round of PPP for hard hit businesses. The Democrats against that? My extra colleagues like Senator [Ernst 00:00:04:07], [Daines 00:04:11], Gardner, and Sullivan will be voting on new support for small businesses, like farms and fisheries. Thanks to Senator [Cornyn 00:00:04:19], we’ll be voting on common sense, legal protections that universities and nonprofits have been asking for. Who are the Democrats excited to vote against? The farmers or the university presidents? Thanks to Chairman Alexander and Senator Blunt, we’re going to vote on an incredibly robust package for education and healthcare, to get kids back in school safely, and then defeat this virus through science.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (04:48)
We’ll be voting on $105 billion for education, more than House Democrats put in their bill, billions for testing and tracing, and even more support for vaccines. And thanks to a number of our colleagues, including Senator Ernst and Loeffler, there’s new support for childcare. Plus other arrangements like homeschooling, thanks to Senator Cruz. Are Democrats really going to refuse to fund K through 12 schools and childcare in a pandemic because they’re afraid Republicans might get some credit? Really? They’re going to vote against finding and distributing vaccines because they’re afraid the break through that our nation has prayed for might possibly help President Trump?
Senator Mitch McConnell: (05:38)
These are the policies that every one of us will be voting on in a couple of hours. These and many more. Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leader can keep up the frantic political spin. They can keep trying to make this an abstract argument over leverage, or an infinite set of things that aren’t in the bill, or whether the White House Chief of Staff has been polite to them, or whatever new excuse they’ll settle on today. But none of that, Madam President, is what we’re going to vote on. We’re going to vote on policy. Today, every Senator will either say they want to send families the relief we can agree to, or they can send families nothing. Nothing.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (06:34)
Reporters asked the Democrat leader yesterday, if his stonewalling was making the perfect enemy of the good. He replied, listen to this, “Republicans are the enemy of the good.” Republicans are the enemy. That’s what he said, Madam President. We’ve all heard that saying that a gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he really thinks. That’s a Washington gaffe, when a politician actually says what he really thinks. Well, the Democratic leader just told us how poisonous his thinking has become. The Americans we represent, however they vote, know that Republicans aren’t our enemies and Democrats aren’t our enemies. The coronavirus, Madam President, is the enemy. The coronavirus is the enemy.
Senator Mitch McConnell: (07:41)
My home state just passed a sad milestone yesterday, more than 1000 Kentuckians have lost their lives to COVID-19. These families I represent are not burying their loved ones because Republicans or Democrats are the enemy. They’re burying their loved ones because of this virus. That’s what we’re fighting. That’s what families are dealing with. We’re not each other’s enemies. We’re all in this together. Just like we were back in March and April. So today, every Senator is going to vote. Every Senator’s going to vote. Senators who share of the Democratic leaders’ toxic attitude, who think the real enemy are their political opponents, I assume will follow his lead and vote no. They can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them. But Senators who want to move forward, will vote yes, if they want to advance this process. So we can shape it into a bipartisan product and make a law for the American people. That, Madam President, is what working families need. They need us to act. They need us to legislate. Today, they’ll see exactly who has their backs.
Speaker 1: (09:27)
By the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
Speaker 2: (09:37)
Nomination, the Judiciary, [inaudible 00:09:39] of Michigan to be United States district judge for the Western district of Michigan.
Speaker 3: (09:44)
Speaker 1: (09:49)
[Clark 00:09:49] will call the roll.
Speaker 2: (09:50)
Senator John Thune: (26:59)
Speaker 5: (27:00)
Senator John Thune: (27:01)
My understanding is the Senate is in a quorum call.
Speaker 5: (27:04)
Yes we are.
Senator John Thune: (27:05)
I would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted.
Speaker 5: (27:08)
Senator John Thune: (27:10)
Madam President, once again, this week, Republicans are bringing forward a proposal to provide additional coronavirus relief to help protect jobs, to get kids and teachers back in the classroom safely, and to provide funding for the treatments and vaccines we need to defeat this virus, and once again, Democrats are objecting. It’s the same old song, Republicans’ bill doesn’t spend enough. Let’s talk about that for a minute, Madam President. First of all Republicans are not claiming that the bill that we put on the floor this week contains the last dollars that we’ll need to spend in response to the coronavirus. We may need to spend more. This bill is simply an attempt to direct relief funds to some of the biggest priorities right now, like helping the hardest hit small businesses weather this crisis and provide a more –
Senator John Thune: (28:03)
… helping the hardest hit small businesses weather this crisis and providing more resources for testing treatment and vaccines. These are areas Madam president that we should all agree on. Second of all, democrats coronavirus proposal, the $3 trillion bill that they proposed, is both unrealistic and irresponsible. Our nation is deeply, deeply in debt right now. Next year, our country will own more than we produce for the first time since the end of world war two. That’s a very bad place to be. That’s getting toward the kind of debt to GDP ratio that helped bring about financial disaster in Greece and while the United States is not Greece, if we grow our debt enough, what happened to the Greek economy could happen here. Being the United States of America does not exempt us from financial realities. Now in times of crisis, sometimes you have to borrow money and that’s what we had to do earlier this year with the cares act and other coronavirus relief legislation.
Senator John Thune: (29:10)
Madam president, we have an absolute responsibility to every American, to every hardworking individual in this country to ensure that we are only borrowing what is absolutely necessary and democrats proposal doesn’t even come close to meeting the definition of necessary spending. To give you just one example, democrats have proposed appropriating a staggering $1 trillion for states, even though the state’s still, still Madam president, haven’t spent the money that we provided for them in the original cares act. Now it’s certainly possible that at some point we will have to provide some kind of additional assistance to states, but to create a $1 trillion slush fund for states before they’ve even spent the money they’ve already been given, would be an incredibly irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars. At least some of that money could be used for coronavirus relief. Other money in the democrats bill would go to measures that have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the virus. Things like diversity studies in the cannabis industry, a soil health study, federalizing elections, tax cuts for millionaires in states like New York and California.
Senator John Thune: (30:42)
Madam, one of the biggest priorities in the wake of the coronavirus is helping Americans keep their jobs or find new ones. It should be front and center in any relief bill, yet democrats massive bill, over $3 trillion in the democrats bill manages to mention the word cannabis more often than the word job. Diversity studies for marijuana, more important evidently than jobs, at least if you look at the democrats bill and Madam president, that should tell you all that you need to know about the seriousness of the democrats proposal. I would love for the democrat leader to come down to the floor and explain how a bill that mentions the word cannabis more often than the word job is a serious coronavirus bill. Of course, despite the unseriousness of the democrats proposal, republicans have been willing to compromise on a coronavirus bill from the very beginning. We understand how negotiation works and we knew that we would have to give some ground and that democrats would have to give some ground and we were and are willing to do just that, but from the beginning democrats have rejected serious negotiation. Sure. They sat in meetings and they talked about a bill, but at the end of the day democrats refused to compromise. It was their bill or no bill, which means Madam president, that’s so far, they have chosen no bill.
Senator John Thune: (32:24)
The only way to get a bill through the senate to the president’s desk is to develop a compromised bill. Even if the majority leader put democrats exact bill on the floor today, there is no way, no way madam president, that would make it through the senate, much less be signed into law by the president. If the democrats really want a bill, they’re going to have to compromise and that is something that they continue to refuse to do. Which leads to the logical conclusion, that democrats don’t want a bill at all. If democrats really wanted to get relief to Americans, they would work with republicans to pass a compromise bill even if it didn’t contain all the money the democrats want because even if it were true that the republican legislation is inadequate, some money is better than no money. If you can’t get someone in need all the money that you think they should have, you should get them what money you can.
Senator John Thune: (33:35)
If democrats really thought it was of overwhelming importance that we deliver relief to Americans right now, they would be working with republicans to get as much relief as they could through congress, but for democrats delivering relief to Americans is not really of overwhelming importance. What is of overwhelming importance to democrats is keeping coronavirus alive as a political issue and if that means no bill, well, then democrats are okay with that. They’d rather have no bill, zero funding and a political weapon, than have a bill and allow republicans to say that we helped Americans. All indications are that we have a vote later today that they planned to filibuster this bill and that’s not the first time that we’ve seen this. Think back to the end of June. In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the knee of a police officer, Americans of all parties came together to push for police reform. Republicans put a police reform bill on the floor of the senate for debate and amendment, a substantial bill that included 75% to 80% of what both democrats and republicans said they wanted. The product of years of research and work by Senator Tim Scott, who has personal experience on this issue and democrats, well democrats filibustered. That’s right.
Senator John Thune: (35:14)
In the face of a nationwide call for police reform legislation, democrats refused to even move forward to debate the legislation. Why? Because agreeing to work with republicans on legislation, that would have taken away much of democrats ability to exploit police reform as a political issue and so democrats filibustered, even though remarkably madame president, they were offered by Senator Scott and other supporters of the bill, numerous amendments, 10 amendments, 20 amendment votes. Opportunities to improve the bill or at least improve the bill in their eyes into a form that they could pass it. Well, it’s hard not to wonder if some of the violence that we’ve seen in our cities across the country in recent months could have been avoided if democrats had not decided to attempt to exploit this issue for political gain.
Senator John Thune: (36:14)
Madam president, there’s not a lot republicans can do if democrats intend to keep prioritizing perceived political advantage, overdoing their jobs as legislators, but we’re going to take this vote on the coronavirus relief bill this week, today and we’re going to keep offering opportunities for democrats to work with republicans to help the American people and maybe, maybe madame president, some of the democrat rank and file will decide that they’ve had enough of their leaders playing politics and will work with us to resolve and to get some things done for the American people. Madam president, republicans are ready to negotiate, we just need Democrats to come to the table. Madam president, I yield the floor and I suggest you have a quorum.
Speaker 6: (37:11)
[inaudible 00:09:16]. Mr. Alexander.
Speaker 6: (37:16)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (37:46)
Speaker 6: (37:47)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (37:48)
Are we in a quorum?
Speaker 6: (37:48)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (37:49)
I ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with.
Speaker 6: (37:52)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (37:53)
Now madam president, today the Senate will take a rather pointless vote on the latest, highly partisan republican emaciated Covid relief bill. Now the republican leader keeps claiming that his bill is an attempt at a bipartisan solution, but of course the bill was drafted solely by republicans, no input from democrats and rushed to the floor. Mr. Leader, go look up in the dictionary what bipartisanship is. It’s both parties working together, not your party doing a bill and then saying, it’s bi-partisan. What the leader has done, the republican leader, is no one’s idea of bipartisanship, not even his own members and let’s go over history, he’s done this trick before. Covid 2, Covid 3, Covid 3.5, in each case, republicans came out, the leader came out and saying he did his own bill and said, this is the only bill that will pass. Democrats that are blocking it. Democrats held strong. What happened? We got much better bills with many of the things we wanted. We got truly bipartisan bills once the leader determined that he had to negotiate with democrats to pass something. That’ll happen again. There’s a decent chance that will happen again, but this bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills, so partisanly designed, it was designed to fail.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (39:24)
Now the republican leader claims the vote this week will expose democratic obstruction and delay, another one of these Alice in Wonderland type statements, but of course democrats weren’t the ones who said, let’s put the senate on pause. Who said that? Democrats didn’t say, let’s wait and see. Who said that? Democrats didn’t delay for four months while the nation suffered, in fact, the house passed a bill with the broad support of senate democrats. While the president was lying to the American people about the Coronavirus, senate republicans were following suit in spirit. The republican leader himself talked about the lack of urgency in his caucus to address the problem. The idea that democrats who passed the comprehensive little relief package through the house nearly four months ago are the cause of delay in obstruction is ridiculous. It’s been the republicans all along. The record shows it. From the beginning, from way back in March after the cares act passed, democrats have insisted on continuing a program of assistance to the American people. We proposed legislation to give hazard pay to essential workers. Rental assistance, housing assistance, nutrition assistance. Legislation to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits that kept nearly 12 million Americans out of poverty. Money for rural broadband. Money to help our restaurants and our hotels. We’ve proposed many different things, none of which are in the republican bill. House democrats passed the heroes act through their chamber. So far, it’s the only major Covid relief bill since the cares act to pass either chamber of congress and meanwhile as the spring turned into summer and as summer approaches fall, republicans dithered and delayed. They pushed their chips in with president Trump’s lot and hoped the virus would miraculously disappear and everything would be all better. Rather than use the power of the federal government to help our citizens during a once in a lifetime crisis, senate republicans closed their eyes, crossed their fingers, hoping they wouldn’t have to do anything. Sound familiar? It’s just what president Trump tried to do as well. Here now, in September, republicans finally felt the public pressure to support a bill, but instead of working with democrats on something that could…
Senator Chuck Schumer: (42:03)
But instead of working with Democrats on something that could pass, our friends on the other side tried to find the bare minimum that Senate Republicans could support. They had 20 Republican senators, in the words of the leader, who wanted to spend no money. The greatest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health crisis since the Spanish flu over a century, just about a century ago, and 20 Republicans want to spend nothing, and they are the tail wagging the Republican dog. So the leader didn’t know, the Republican leader didn’t know what to do. He proposed a meager bill, a skinny bill of a trillion dollars, but even that wasn’t good enough for the hard right, the large hard right in his caucus, and so he put together with spit and Polish an emaciated bill that hardly does a thing, that leaves out so many Americans, that doesn’t come close to meeting the moment, so he might say he might be able to bring something on the floor with a modicum of support in this caucus.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (43:17)
It’s insufficient. It’s completely inadequate. It does not help renters keep a roof over their heads or American families put food on the table. It shortchanges healthcare and education, does not provide a dime to protect essential state and local services. It is leaden with poison pills, provisions our colleagues know Democrats would never support to guarantee the bill’s failure. The truth of the matter is the Republicans and the Republican leader don’t want to pass a bill. Too many on the hard right in the Senate and outside it would be angry if they actually put together a bill that could pass, so Leader McConnell this morning demanded that Democrats name exactly what we oppose in their bill like it was some kind of challenge?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (44:08)
How about the broad immunity provisions from the day he announced them? He knew that it wouldn’t get democratic support. How about the Betsy DeVos school choice plan that would funnel money into private schools while he neglected the real needs of our public schools? Of course, Democrats would oppose that. He knew that. He knows that the truth is this emaciated bill is not a serious attempt at legislation or solving the real problems in our country. It’s a shame. It is one of the most cynical moves I’ve seen, a fairly transparent attempt to show that the Republicans are doing something, when in fact they want to do nothing.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (44:57)
In reality, we’re in the middle of the pandemic, historic unemployment, industries struggling from one end of America to the other, and Leader McConnell isn’t searching for bipartisan progress. He seems to be looking for political cover. Once this bill goes down, we’ll be right where we started at the start of the week, waiting for our Republican colleagues to wake up to the size of the crisis in our country and work with us on a bill that actually makes sense. We want to work on a bipartisan bill. The speaker and I have come down a trillion dollars off our initial request, which was based on the real needs of the American people during this pandemic crisis. Our Republican colleagues, both the president’s minions and the Republican Senate have refused to budge, but I still have some hope once this bill is defeated. If past is prologue, there’s actually a significant chance that the public heat on many Republican senators as they go back home will have them come to their senses, and they’ll start negotiating with us in a serious way.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (46:10)
That happened on COVID two, it happened on COVID three, it happened COVID three-five. I pray and plead for the sake of our country and the people who are suffering that it will happen again, and Republicans, once they see they can’t pass this emaciated, terribly insufficient and poison pill pocked proposal, that they’ll start negotiating in reality with us, something they have not done as of yet.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (46:46)
Now, on President Trump, yesterday it was reported in the taped interviews with Bob Woodward President Trump acknowledged that he knew the danger posed by COVID-19 way back in February, but he deliberately, deliberately downplayed the threat to the American people. We now know that the president wasn’t ill-informed. He wasn’t being overly optimistic. He was lying to the American people. He was deliberately downplaying the virus to the American people at a time when early and forceful action could have saved so many lives. Look, when the house is on fire, a five alarm fire, you have an obligation to let people know. If you don’t, they’re going to burn and they’re going to die. When we look at the rest of the world and see why they’re doing better than we are in fighting this disease, the reason is simple. They had some leadership. We’ve had none from the White House. None. We’ve had lying. We’ve had ignoring the problem. We’ve had misleading the American people, but no leadership at a time when we desperately need it.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (48:04)
Other leaders around the world were clear about science. They faced it up. They faced up to the problem and worked hard to solve it. They instituted policies to test, trace and isolate. We had a president who simply lied about the dangers of the disease and suggested that Americans inject bleach. Other leaders took responsibility and ownership. We had a president who said it is what it is. In the annals of history, this will be one of the five greatest examples of lack of leadership in American history. President Trump, the history books are not going to regard you kindly. They are not going to regard you kindly.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (48:49)
The president is coming up with great excuses now for his perfidious lies. This time, he said he didn’t want to tell the truth about COVID because it might because panic. Really? Is this the same president who’s busy panicking America right, now telling women in the suburbs that your safety is at risk when the suburbs are not at risk at all? Is this the same president who invented a caravan of migrants in attempt to panic Americans before the last election? This president always uses panic as a tool when he thinks it serves his interest, so the idea that he did it because he didn’t want to panic Americans does not ring true. It seems like an ex post facto excuse for the president’s perfidious lies. President Trump doesn’t mind panicking people when it serves his interest. What is worse is he will not tell the truth when it hurts his interest, even, even if lives are at stake. The president’s comments in this interview were despicable, should serve as a warning to all Americans about who this man is and his total, complete abject failure to lead.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (50:07)
Finally, on transit. COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of American life, but Senate Republicans in the White House only want to address the barest sliver of the problems in our country. So this week, I’ve been pointing out many of the things that the Republican proposal leaves out. Yesterday, I spoke about the plight of live venues and the need to save that essential part of our culture and our economy. Today, I want to address another topic that has received far too little attention from the Senate republicans: transit.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (50:42)
Public transportation systems are the lifeblood of great American cities. Regional networks connect workers to jobs and consumers and businesses. As anyone can imagine, during the pandemic while transit authorities like the MTA have continued round the clock operations to serve the people, ridership on public transportation has plummeted leaving them in a state of crisis. God forbid if public transportation were forced to shutter or drastically reduce operations, like on Long Island, where they rely on the Long Island Railroad. The damage to regional economies and to the national economy would be severe, but there’s not a penny, not one single penny in the Republican bill to help public transit systems or even help state and local governments, which fund a lot of the transit systems. Not a penny.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (51:37)
My Republican friends seem to look at this crisis through a narrow lens. Some of my colleagues have criticized Democrats for the outrageous idea of wanting to help our state governments in essential public services they provide. Well, I have news for our colleagues. These regional transit systems are mission critical to the national economy. It’s not just a New York problem or a New Jersey problem or an Illinois problem. It’s a national crisis. The Metropolitan Transit Authority alone carries about 40% of the nation’s transit riders and drives as much as 10% of the national GDP. 10%. The facts argue for heavy investment in public transportation systems to staunch the bleeding and jumpstart the economy when the pandemic wanes. The lack of investment in transit systems and the Republican legislation is unacceptable. Finally, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by a former senior official in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, political leaders at DHS told him to refrain from sharing reports about Putin’s efforts to interfere with our elections because “they make the president look bad.” And this DHS whistleblower goes on to allege a broader pattern by Trump and his lieutenants of politicizing and misrepresenting intelligence, altering the information to fit the president’s way of thinking, what the president thinks makes him look good. We know this president doesn’t like to hear the truth. He literally can’t handle it, but what’s even more alarming is that former DNI director Dan Coats, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, could not shake his “deep suspicions that Vladimir Putin had something on the president.” Many Americans believe what Coats said, that the reason Donald Trump bows down in obeisance to Putin is that Putin knows something that the president doesn’t want made public. That’s how egregious the pattern of President Trump’s behavior has been. It cries out for an explanation, and there’s no logical one. There’s no honorable one. His pattern, President Trump’s pattern of downplaying the prep threat from Putin, placating the dictator and pursuing policies that have long been the goal of Moscow asks an enormous question. What does President Putin know that President Trump is so afraid of?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (54:21)
So here’s what needs to happen: before we leave the election, there has to be an oil senators briefing on the threat from Putin to our election. Every Senator, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, North, South, East, and West has an obligation to our constituents in the country we all love to find out what exactly Putin is up to. I yield the floor.
Speaker 7: (54:48)
The senator for Illinois.
Dick Durbin: (54:49)
Mr. President, I want to thank my colleague from New York for his comments this morning. He’s right. We’ve seen this play before. We know how it ends. Senator McConnell, the Republican …