CORONAVIRUS; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 142
(Senate - August 10, 2020)

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[Pages S5360-S5362]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, over the weekend, the United States

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achieved an ignominious milestone. Five 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. One million Americans were infected 
in just 17 days. We have 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 are 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.
  The $3.4 million in the Heroes Act was based on the country's needs, 
which is so large and so diverse. It is not a political position; it is 
what our country needs--its schools, its businesses, its renters, its 
homeowners, its essential workers, its post office, its elections, 
State and local governments, our healthcare system. Leader McConnell 
doesn't seem to understand this. He sees everything through a political 
  But we Democrats are looking at the real needs of people. They are 
large, and they come from many different places. That is why we called 
for a large bill because it was needed because the American people 
demanded it. At this point, the American people are on our side. By 
survey data, two-thirds support the $3.4 billion Democratic plan, not 
the skimpy Republican plan that doesn't deal with people's needs.
  But at the end of last week, after days of arduous negotiations, 
Speaker Pelosi and I continued to run into Republican intransigence. 
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 is how negotiations 
occur. That is 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 is needed. 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 
is going to be our way or no way. We are not going to meet you in the 
  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? It is because this Republican Party is so tied in a knot that it 
can't agree to anything. It can only spute the same political speech 
every day.
  Republican Leader McConnell has admitted that 20 Republican Senators 
will not vote for any more relief for the American people. The Senate 
bill that the Republican leader keeps referring to 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 he said about this crisis that had 
some truth to it.
  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. They are so tied in a 
knot they can't legislate or even bring themselves to join us in the 
middle. They were clinging to the hope that the President could do 
something on his own through Executives orders, but as we have seen, 
Executives 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 a 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 will not be hit with a very large tax bill in December when 
the deferral expires. ADP, a nonpolitical payroll processing company, 
said: It ``may take months to implement'' the President's new policy.

  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 are a 
senior or have paid into Social Security or Medicare and are waiting 
for it, watch out--watch out. Seniors throughout the decades, since we 
have had Social Security, have jealously regarded the trust fund, and 
now Donald Trump says: Well, maybe we should get rid of it because we 
should defer; we should get rid of the payroll tax altogether.
  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 will not 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's 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, it doesn't happen.
  The idea that the American worker is looking for an out is demeaning 
to the American worker, Leader McConnell. Americans want to work. There 
is 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 are looking for a way out; that they are looking for 
a way to ``skeeve'' the system. That is not the American worker I know. 
That is not the New York worker I know. But, of course, when 
unemployment is over 10 percent, you can be looking for a job, but you 
may not get one. That is the reason so many people are on pandemic 
unemployment insurance.
  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. The President's Executive orders, therefore, are a disaster.
  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 ``review'' and 
``consider'' whether it is appropriate to halt evictions, let alone 
people who have fallen behind on their rent.
  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 unemployment insurance will take weeks and 
months to implement and hurts American workers and demeans them. The 
Executive order on evictions says: Let's consider something. We know 
what that means in jargon around here: Let's not do it. Let's just talk 
about it.
  President Trump's Executive orders are hardly worth the paper they 

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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.
  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 orders leave out money to safely reopen our schools and provide 
the PPE and other help to keep the kids, teachers, and staff safe. The 
orders will not give food assistance to hungry kids and families.
  The orders will not 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.
  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 wrought. 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 are ready as soon as our Republican colleagues have come off this 
view that it is their way or no way and meet us in the middle.
  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 is how the President of the United States 
of America responds to the harrowing fact that more than 1,000 
Americans are dying every single day from a virus his administration 
has failed to contain--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. 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.''
  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 schoolchildren compared to the flu. Leader 
McConnell put the Senate on ice for 4 months in the middle of a global 
pandemic because his party ``didn't feel the urgency of acting''--his 
words. Now, by the leader's own admission, more than a third of the 
Senate Republican caucus doesn't want to vote for anything--anything--
to help the American people.
  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 are sending 
our kids back to school without a plan. The number of Americans we are 
testing is going down. The disease is ravaging our nursing homes. 
Americans are dying--so many in so short a time that funeral homes and 
morgues are storing the dead in refrigerated 18-wheelers.
  Yet the President says: ``It is what it is.'' The President, his 
aides, his party, and Congress are not even awake to what is happening 
in this country. That is the reason Senate Republicans delayed for 4 
long months, and that is the reason we have been unable to find 
agreement with the White House.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland