Coronavirus (Executive Calendar); Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 208
(Senate - December 09, 2020)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Pages S7293-S7294]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                              Coronavirus

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, March 23--March 23 has been a long time 
from this date, and a lot of things have happened in America since 
March 23. Over 200,000 American lives have been lost. Millions of 
Americans have been infected with the COVID virus. Our families have 
changed. Our lives have changed. We have tried to adjust to the worst 
pandemic America has seen.
  We know that we have fallen short many times in providing the 
resources that were needed in a timely way. I can remember in the early 
stages of this pandemic when in my State of Illinois there were 
desperate phone calls from the Governor asking if I could find some way 
to help, in Washington or any other place, to provide protective 
equipment for the people in the healthcare field.
  We know as well that many people have seen businesses close in their 
communities. In my hometown of Springfield, IL, our favorite restaurant 
is clinging to its business life, and we are finding excuses to order 
food out as often as possible to keep them open. Others haven't been so 
lucky. Their businesses are closed, and their jobs have disappeared.
  Millions of Americans are drawing unemployment. Many are waiting in 
long lines for food. Desperate decisions are being made because people 
are in desperate circumstances.
  A lot has happened since March 23. The reason I mention that date is 
that was the day we passed the CARES Act. It was a momentous, historic 
effort--$3 trillion to try to rescue this economy, to help the American 
people through this crisis, to provide resources that were needed--and 
it was overwhelmingly bipartisan. It passed the Senate by 96 to 0.
  Since then, many things have happened. We have also learned that the 
CARES Act was not enough. We thought this crisis would end long ago, 
and it didn't. Perhaps now with vaccines coming online, we will see 
some dramatic changes in the few months ahead, but what are we going to 
do in the meantime? Are we going to continue to help those drawing 
unemployment? Are we going to continue to help the businesses that are 
struggling to survive and to help their employees make it through 
another week or another month? Are we going to do what is necessary to 
help State and local governments that have seen losses in their 
revenues in historic terms? Are we going to take care to provide the 
logistical support for the actual vaccinations that are necessary 
across America? That question is unanswered because we have done 
nothing--virtually nothing--since March 23.
  A group of Senators several weeks ago met for a socially distanced, 
safe dinner at one of the homes of my colleagues and talked about 
another approach--a new approach, a bipartisan approach--to try to deal 
with COVID relief. If the leaders were unable to act, perhaps we could 
start the conversation.
  I signed up for that effort with a number of Republican Senators and 
Democratic Senators, and we set out to write a COVID relief bill--with 
our staff's help, of course. I didn't realize what I was getting into 
in terms of time commitment. We have spent literally hour after hour 
after hour, day after day after day--multiple times in a day 
sometimes--dealing with the difficult issues of what America needs now 
in emergency relief because of this COVID-19 crisis.
  We have come to a general conclusion on all but one issue as to what 
we would propose, and we believe it should be done quickly. You see, on 
December 26, 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment 
insurance. Businesses struggling now will close between now and then if 
we don't do something.
  Unfortunately, the speech given by the Republican leader on the floor 
this morning suggests that whatever we came up with and proposed is not 
going to be taken seriously. That is unfortunate. I think there is real 
wisdom, bipartisan compromise in our proposal.
  It is within the power of the Republican leader to call this matter 
to the floor, and that is all we ask. Make it subject to amendments, if 
you wish, but let's get this debate underway. This silent, empty 
Chamber is no answer to the cries of American people who are desperate 
for help in the midst of this pandemic. Political posturing and press 
releases from one side or the other won't put food on the table, won't 
give a father peace of mind, won't give a mother the help she needs 
with childcare, won't give a student the broadband service they need to 
continue their education.
  There is an issue that still is unresolved, and it is the issue of 
liability. We don't know what to do with that, but we ought to look at 
the evidence. So far in this calendar year, with 15 million people 
infected with COVID-19, fewer than 3 lawsuits per State--3 per State--
have been filed in medical malpractice or consumer personal injury 
claims. There are a lot of other lawsuits between businesses and with 
insurance companies--by prisoners in jail saying that their confinement 
is dangerous to their health, people filing lawsuits against Governors 
for issuing orders to stay at home and close down businesses--but when 
it comes to the personal injury claims, there are very few. Very few.
  We know why--those of us who have been involved in the practice of 
law. One of the things that you have to prove to recover in a case is 
causation. That is rare in a case dealing with coronavirus, to be able 
to pinpoint exactly when you became infected and what the circumstances 
are. That is why so few lawsuits have been filed.
  The Senator from Kentucky is insisting that there be immunity to 
liability as part of any agreement. It is a thorny topic, a difficult 
topic, a controversial topic, but I plead with him to hold to another 
day the overall issue of liability. Accept this emergency bill that we 
have put together as a bipartisan group of Senators to address this 
issue in the reality of the world we live in. To hold it back because 
of some other major issue that has not been resolved is unfair to 
American families and workers and students and health workers. We owe 
it to them to do everything in our power to help them now.
  How can we in good conscience go home for Christmas knowing that the 
day after Christmas, 12 million Americans will see their unemployment 
insurance disappear because of our inability to act? What kind of 
spirit is that of any holiday season? I think we need to be mindful of 
the fact that there are a lot of helpless people counting on us to do 
something.
  I hope we realize that this bipartisan effort put together by a group 
of Senators, which I have been honored to be part of, is a good-faith 
effort to answer the basic questions of what is needed now in America 
and what is needed on an emergency basis. It is a good bill--far from 
perfect. It deserves a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
  If Senator McConnell has another proposal that he wants to put on the 
floor as well, he certainly has that right as the majority leader, but 
to close the door on this bipartisan effort is to reject a good-faith 
undertaking by Senators from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and 
Republicans.
  I plead with the majority leader, let's not claim some political 
victory when this is all over at the expense of a lot of helpless 
people across America who are battling this pandemic
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

[[Page S7294]]

  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. HAWLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.