Coronavirus (Executive Session); Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 138
(Senate - August 04, 2020)

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[Pages S4680-S4688]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I just listened to my friend the 
Republican leader. The Republican leader is so tied in a knot by his 
own caucus and his President that all he can do is give Alice-in-
Wonderland, partisan speeches. All he can do is threaten to force sham 
votes that will not pass and will not answer the anguished cries for 
help that are coming from so many of our fellow Americans.
  On the other hand, over the weekend and yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and 
I continued our negotiations with the White House on the next phase of 
COVID-relief legislation. After a week of stalled talks because 
Republicans could not articulate a position on hardly anything, I 
believe we are making progress. We came closer together on several 
issues; however, we remain far apart on a number of issues, but we are 
finally moving in the right direction.
  At the moment, the gap between our two parties in the negotiations is 
about priorities and about scale. As this huge crisis engulfs our 
Nation, Democrats believe we need a bold, strong, and vigorous response 
from the Federal Government. It will take a lot of resources, but if we 
don't commit those resources now, for sure the costs will only grow in 
the months to come.
  Democrats are fighting to meet the needs of a desperate nation. Our 
Republican friends, however--President Trump, his aides, and the 
Republicans in the Senate--do not seem to appreciate the gravity of the 
situation. They do not understand the needs of the country that are so 
great, and they are not stepping up to meet those needs. This disease 
has washed over our country like a great flood, and Republicans

[[Page S4681]]

are acting as if we need to fix a leaky faucet.
  Some of our Republican friends seem to be going through the motions, 
content to pass a bill--any bill so they can check a box and go home--
but a bill that doesn't come close to meeting the needs of America. We 
cannot do that. We cannot pass an inadequate bill and then go home 
while the virus continues to spread, the economy continues to 
deteriorate, and the country gets worse. No box checking will work. We 
need real action.
  We need a relief package that actually rescues American families, 
American schools, and American businesses; that helps defeat this evil 
virus and prevents our economy from sliding into a depression. 
Democrats are going to keep fighting until we get there.
  Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are not yet awake to 
the enormity of the challenge, and we see it across a whole range of 
  For example, Democrats believe we have an obligation to help every 
American put food on the table. Our Republican friends start 
negotiating by saying they don't think we need to do anything to help 
hungry families and children, but maybe they can compromise and help 
feed a small percentage. That is not going to cut it. Let's say 1 
million families can't feed their kids. The Republican bill has zero, 
and we cover all 1 million. To say ``Let's compromise and only cover 
half of them'' is cruel and not going to solve the problem.
  We want to see all our schools reopen in the fall, but they need the 
resources and guidance to do it safely--not 25 percent of the 
resources, not half. Schools need funding for masks and PPE, for 
converting space into more socially distant classrooms, for updating 
their ventilating systems. Some need to double the number of buses to 
keep from packing kids together on the morning route to school. It is 
going to cost money, and the Republicans have to understand that. 
Parents must have confidence that if their school is going to reopen, 
it has the protocols and infrastructure in place to keep their children 
  It is the same with unemployment. Over 50 million Americans have 
filed for unemployment with millions more filing new claims each week. 
We proposed extending the enhanced unemployment benefits that Democrats 
secured in the CARES Act through the end of the year. The policy has 
kept as many as 12 million Americans out of poverty and boosted 
consumer spending--one of the few bright spots in our economy. But 
Republicans are intent on slashing those benefits or letting them 
expire long before the crisis is over. One Republican proposal would 
give newly out-of-work Americans a 30-percent pay cut; another would 
give them a 33-percent pay cut.
  The Trump administration's own Department of Labor warned us that 
these proposals, which would pay a percentage of a worker's former 
wage, are patently unworkable. It will take weeks and months if we 
adopt the Republican proposal before any checks wind up in the hands of 
millions of Americans, and our State unemployment offices that 
administer this program agree.
  So Republicans need to step up to the plate and work with us to find 
a solution that shields millions of jobless Americans from further 
economic hardship. State, local, and Tribal governments have fought 
this evil virus on their frontlines with budgets strained. They are at 
risk of shedding teachers, firefighters, bus drivers, sanitation 
workers, slashing public services.

  My good friend Senator Carper is leading a group of Democratic 
Senators to talk about these issues today because Senate Republicans 
and the White House do not believe in giving support to our State and 
local governments. That is not an abstract concept. Again, these are 
firefighters and teachers and bus drivers and healthcare workers. We 
don't care if they are a blue State or red State; they need the help.
  We must also address our elections and make sure that Americans can 
vote safely and confidently with the new challenges of coronavirus for 
the first time in a national election. That means they need to be able 
to vote in-person and by mail, whichever they choose. Adequate funding 
for State election systems in the post office shouldn't be a partisan 
issue. This is about preserving elections, making them fair, making 
every ballot count. That is the wellspring of our democracy, and it is 
COVID-related, and our Republican friends are resisting.
  We are still fighting to get enough funding for testing and contact 
tracing. It is extraordinarily frustrating that 7 months into this 
crisis Democrats still have to argue with our Republican colleagues 
about delivering enough support for testing, contact tracing, Medicaid, 
and our healthcare system.
  These are just some of the many issues we need to work through. When 
people ask ``What is holding things up?'' it is our view that not only 
are our Republican friends disorganized and all over the lot, not only 
is President Trump tweeting about so many different things but not 
taking any leadership in this crisis but, most of all, that we must 
meet the needs of this enormous crisis and really help the American 
people. We need a strong, robust bill. We are working hard for that. 
Our Republican colleagues, inch by inch, are beginning to see the 
light. I hope more of them will.
  There are so many issues we must work through. Democrats want to get 
a deal done, but we need answers for all of them--not just a few. We 
can't pick out one or two: Oh, we will help schools but not kids who 
need food. That doesn't work. That doesn't work. We will help small 
businesses but not the unemployed. That doesn't work.
  We have a big, broad, huge crisis--the greatest health crisis in 100 
years, the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression--and we 
have a lot of Herbert Hoovers over here who don't want to do anything--
a lot of Herbert Hoovers on the Republican side. Well, remember what 
happened then: By not meeting the crisis head-on, they created the 
Great Depression--the Republicans did--under Hoover. Let's hope our 
Republican friends see the light and won't make that same mistake 
  Let me remind my Republican colleagues, when there is a crisis of 
this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it. Individuals alone, 
even with courage and sacrifice, are not powerful enough to beat it 
back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding 
and begin the healing of the Nation.
  One of the main reasons holding things back--there are so many 
Republicans on the other side who do not believe the Federal Government 
even has a role to play. Leader McConnell has admitted not once, not 
twice, not three times, but four times that there are as many as 20 
Senate Republicans who will vote against any relief package for the 
American people.
  Those Republicans, who seem to be the tail that wags the dog--and it 
is a pretty big tail with over 20 votes--those Republicans don't get 
it. We know you like the private sector over government, but there are 
times when there is nothing but government that can step up to the 
plate and solve the problem, and this is one of those times.
  Faced with the greatest economic threat in 75 years, the greatest 
public health crisis in a century, more than a third of the Senate 
Republican majority will not vote for anything to help the American 
people. Those very same Republicans gleefully voted to give a $1.5 
trillion tax cut to help giant corporations pad their profit margins, 
but helping Americans put food on the table, go back to school safely, 
keep a roof over their heads, and survive a global pandemic--that is a 
bridge too far. How out of touch can they be?
  These folks cannot be allowed to dictate our policy. By their own 
admission, they will not vote for anything. Remember that when Leader 
McConnell claims that Senate Democrats are the obstacles to progress. 
More than one-third of the Senate Republican caucus doesn't want to 
vote for anything.
  This week, our Republican colleagues have two choices. They can 
engage in the same kind of political theater that preluded the CARES 
Act. Leader McConnell can schedule a show vote on legislation that even 
his own caucus will not support and, again, in his Alice-in-Wonderland 
style, get up on the floor and say that Democrats are the ones blocking 
it. He can engage in the same partisan maneuvers that have resulted in 
failure and won't answer the anguished cries of Americans.

[[Page S4682]]

  As I said earlier--and I want to repeat it--the Republican leader is 
so tied in a knot by his own caucus and this President that one of his 
only options is to give Alice-in-Wonderland, partisan speeches and 
maybe force a sham vote that will not pass and will not answer the 
anguished cries for help from so many Americans.
  On the other hand, Senate Republicans could roll up their sleeves, 
wake up to the crisis in our country, and figure out what they can 
support. I think we are all ready for the Republican majority to figure 
out just what that is.
  What is dictating our policy and our positions on the Democratic side 
is very simple: the national need--large, large, large. That is our 
North Star, and we are going to keep pressing forward with the hard 
work of negotiations, hopeful that we can get a deal done to help the 
country in a time of severe crisis.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, I have a recommendation for my 
colleagues in the Senate. I recommend, as the Senator from New York 
does, that they go home--literally, leave Washington, go home, and meet 
up with the people who sent them to Washington to work for them.
  I did last Friday, as I do every weekend. I asked specifically to 
meet with five individuals who are out of work. I wanted them to tell 
me their story and to share that story with the people of Chicago. It 
was quite a moving experience.
  We have 800,000 Illinoisans who are claiming unemployment. Now there 
is a possibility that the $600 a week Federal benefit that was coming 
to them to help pay their bills will disappear. Technically, it ended 
last Friday.
  So I asked these unemployed Illinoisans to tell me their story. 
Roushaunda Williams told me a story about being a bartender for 19 
years at the Palmer House Hilton before being laid off in March. She 
earned significantly more while working than she is receiving in 
unemployment. She is literally worried she is going to lose her home 
and healthcare if she loses that $600 a week.
  Andres Moreno worked at a restaurant in downtown Chicago before the 
pandemic. He was pretty proud of his career, working in the restaurant 
business. He said: I did well. He and his husband have both lost their 
jobs and their health insurance. Without the additional $600 a week in 
unemployment compensation, they will not be able to even buy health 
  Aileen Dimery is an interesting person. She is in lighting 
technology. Her job involves big events. They set up the lights for 
concerts and other gatherings for thousands of people. She said: Nobody 
knows I am there, but I do. I am one of the first women who has ever 
been in this profession.
  Well, those big concerts and crowded venues aren't there anymore. 
Aileen doesn't have anyplace to go back to. She said one thing that 
still sticks with me. She said: I started working when I was 15. I 
worked 36 years. You know how many weeks, Senator, that I have had on 
unemployment in my 36-year work experience?
  I said: No.
  She said: One. This notion that I would rather stay home and draw 
unemployment than go back to work, that isn't who I am. I have proven 
over a lifetime that I am not someone who really doesn't want to earn 
their pay.
  Her enhanced unemployment, if it expires, would mean that her bills--
including paying rent--just can't be paid.
  Jesus Morales worked at the Drake Hotel in Chicago for 33 years and 
made up to $1,700 a week. He reminds me that I met him 20 years ago 
when he was a bartender and a waiter at an event that I attended. Well, 
he has been laid off since March, and without the $600 payment, he is 
afraid he will not be able to make his mortgage payment, and the COBRA 
payment, which covers his health insurance for his family, would be 
  Samantha Arce is a mother of three. She just gave birth a few weeks 
before the lockdown began. Her place of work is closed, and her fiance 
has lost his job. They quickly went from two working parents with three 
kids to no working parents. Enhanced unemployment payments help them 
pay hospital bills and care for their young kids. She brought her 
little boy. He is about 4 or 5 months old--cute little fellow. He 
smiled throughout the whole event. Little did he know what was going on 
in the minds of his mom and dad as they try to cope with the political 
decisions being made in Washington.
  Losing that $600-a-week payment, which the Republicans have proposed, 
would really create a devastating situation for these families and 
these individuals. I hear regularly and have heard it for a long time--
there is this notion that if you are unemployed, you are just not 
trying hard enough. There are jobs out there, they say.
  Well, that is not what the numbers tell us. There are four unemployed 
Americans for every available job--four for every available job. And 
employers who say: Well, if so-and-so would come back to work, but they 
are making too much on unemployment--of course, that is the case in 
some instances, but it is rare. Did you know that of the Americans who 
have gone back to work since we began this pandemic assault, of those 
who have gone back to work, 70 percent are making less than they made 
on unemployment? Well, why would they make that economic decision to go 
back to work and make less than unemployment?
  Well, it is just like Aileen. They are workers. At their heart, they 
are workers. No. 1, they believe in the dignity of work; they are proud 
of what they do; and they want to go back to doing it. No. 2, they know 
unemployment is not forever. No. 3, sometimes there are benefits when 
you go back to work that really count, like the health insurance policy 
that had the doctor and the hospital which you and your family need.
  In June, the Illinois unemployment rate dropped to 14.6 percent, and 
the State added 142,000 jobs, but that unemployment rate of 14.6 
percent is the greatest we have faced since the great recession. Since 
the beginning of March, around 1.7 million unemployment claims had been 
filed in our State of a little less than 13 million people. That is 
nearly 10 times the number of claims processed during the same period a 
year ago. The same thing is true in neighboring States like Kentucky, 
where the unemployment claims are 10 times what they were a year ago.
  Nationwide, around 30 million Americans are relying on enhanced 
unemployment benefits just to keep things together. Trust me, they tell 
me. We are not saving this money. We are not investing this money. We 
are spending this money as fast as it is handed to us to pay for our 
home, our car, utilities, and food.
  The Republican approach would cut the unemployment benefit check from 
the Federal Government from $600 a week to $200 a week--a $400 cut. It 
would then require States to put in place a complex system of 70 
percent wage replacement. It sounds so logical that if you are 
unemployed, you get 70 percent of your paycheck.
  That is an interesting formula. How do you make a formula like that 
work? Well, you have to gather a lot of data about what a person was 
earning when they were employed and then put that into a computer, in 
terms of the payout each State would make under this new formula. It is 
different than what States are already doing. What we found out is, 
States are very different when it comes to their computer technology. 
We were told that, incidentally, by the Trump administration when we 
established the $600-a-week payment. They told us back in March: Don't 
make this too complicated. Make it simple, a flat dollar amount because 
these 50 States have computers that range in sophistication from 
primitive to the most modern, and they are not going to change these 
computers in time to help the people who are currently unemployed.
  The Republicans seem to have forgotten what we were told by the Trump 
administration when we initially enacted the $600-a-week payment. This 
70 percent payment for unemployment doesn't work if the computers can't 
make it work, and we are told it will take anywhere from 2 months to 5 
months for these computer systems to even try.
  What are these families supposed to do, the ones I just described to 
you, while the computer systems are being retooled, and who is going to 
pay for the retooling? If the States can't implement this program, and, 
instead, the flat cash payment goes from $600 to

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$200 for month after month after month, trust me, the lines at the food 
pantries will be longer than ever.
  The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that cutting this benefit 
to $200 a week will reduce our gross domestic product by 2.5 percent 
and cost us 3.4 million jobs. Just what we need, more unemployment, 
thanks to the Republican formula.
  Research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute suggests the enhanced 
benefits have helped thousands of households to continue purchasing 
critical needs: food, diapers, and the basics. Allowing these benefits 
to expire will result in household spending cuts and a reduction in 
economic activity, which is exactly the opposite of what we need to do 
right now.
  This weekend, on television, there was a governor from the Federal 
Reserve in Minneapolis who basically said: This is exactly the wrong 
time to cut back on benefits to the unemployed
  And when the questioner said to him: Well, what about our deficit?
  He was very frank about it. Yes, for the time being, it will add to 
the debt of the United States, but if the economy recovers, which we 
all have to work to achieve, that recovered economy will be able to 
take care of that debt. That is something to keep in mind too. It isn't 
just for the benefit of the families who are unemployed; it is for the 
benefit of the overall economy to put money back into it now.
  We learned in basic economics that if you want to get out of a 
recession, the first dollar the government gives away should be to the 
unemployed. They will spend every penny of it, and they will spend it 
and then have it respent into the economy over and over again. That is 
how you create consumer demand. That is how you create demands for 
business activities, goods, and services.
  So, I want to make it clear from what I learned last Friday in 
Chicago. No one--no one is getting rich off of unemployment. They are 
using their unemployment benefits to survive. Average rent is about 
$1,400 a month in this country. COBRA health insurance, where you pick 
up the health insurance policy from the employer that just laid you 
off, runs about $1,700 a month for a family and $600 a month for an 
individual. The average cost of food for a male adult in America, 
between $200 and $400 a month. Add it all up. There isn't much left 
over. And if the Republican proposal of cutting $400 a week from each 
of these unemployed becomes the law of the land to try to make ends 
meet, workers of color have a disproportionate impact when it comes to 
this economic collapse.
  Overall unemployment was 11.1 percent in June. Unemployment among 
Black workers is 15.4 percent. It is 14.5 percent for Latinx workers. 
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black households 
cut their household consumption by 50 percent more and Latino 
households cut their consumption by 20 percent more than White 
households. That is the reality.
  Let me address two or three particulars raised by the Senator from 
Kentucky about the state of play as we try to negotiate a satisfactory 
conclusion and next step. The first point: This week marks the third 
month--the third month since Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House 
Democrats passed a rescue package. For 3 months, their effort, called 
the Heroes Act, has been sitting on the desk of Senator McConnell. 
Initially, he said: I don't feel a sense of urgency to address this 
issue. Then he went on to say: We haven't spent all the money we 
appropriated the first round.
  Whatever the reason, it wasn't until 7 days ago that the Senate 
Republicans kind of made a proposal. The only thing we have seen 
specific in writing was their proposal for liability immunity, which I 
will address in a moment. The rest of the things were oddly presented 
as potential legislation, which would be brought to the floor of the 
  Imagine that? We have the White House and congressional leaders 
sitting down negotiating, and Senator McConnell said: Well, the 
Republicans will bring a bill to the floor. Well, if you follow the 
Senate, six or eight different bills to the floor, the first swipe is 
going through Republican majority committees. Second, how long is that 
going to take for us to debate and then negotiate between whatever we 
pass and what is pending in the Heroes Act? It makes no sense.
  But I will tell you what makes even less sense. In the negotiations, 
these delicate and important life-changing negotiations that are taking 
place on Capitol Hill--these negotiations to determine what is next now 
that the $600 Federal payment has expired under unemployment, for 
example--in these negotiations, there are six chairs. One chair is 
occupied by the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, 
Mark Meadows. Another chair is occupied by Secretary Mnuchin from the 
Department of the Treasury. The third chair is Speaker of the House, 
Nancy Pelosi. The fourth chair is Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader 
of the U.S. Senate. But there are two empty chairs in this room for 
negotiations. Those two empty chairs should be occupied. One should be 
occupied by Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House. He is 
not there. He doesn't attend these negotiations. And the other, of 
course, should be occupied by Senator McConnell, the Republican leader 
of the Senate.
  He has enough time to come to the floor each day and criticize 
Speaker Pelosi's measure that she passed 3 months ago, but he 
apparently doesn't have time to attend negotiations which could resolve 
the differences between the House and Senate and finally bring to rest 
the concerns of millions of Americans about whether or not there will 
be enough money coming in next week to pay the bills. It is pretty 
tough to come to the floor each day and criticize the Democrats for not 
showing success in negotiations when the Republican leader in the 
Senate is boycotting the negotiation meetings. What is that all about? 
I have been around here for awhile. I have never seen that before where 
one leader is intentionally staying away from the negotiations. I don't 
see how that can end well.
  I see my colleague from Texas has come to the floor. I want to say a 
word about a proposal which he is promoting and is likely to speak to 
this morning before I turn the floor over to him.
  Remember when Senator McConnell came to the floor in the last several 
months and said: I am drawing a redline. When it comes to any 
negotiations, this redline is liability immunity for corporations, and 
if you don't accept my language on liability immunity, there will be no 
negotiations, and there will be no positive outcome--redline.
  He made that speech over and over again as he warned us about the 
flood, the tsunami--``tsunami'' was his word--the tsunami of lawsuits 
that are going to be filed by people, by trial lawyers, these 
mischievous, frivolous lawsuits, over the issue of COVID-19. So we kept 
wondering, when are we going to get to see Senator McConnell's 
liability immunity proposal? We waited week after week after week. 
Nothing. Just speeches on the floor. And then last Monday it was 
unveiled--a 65-page bill. We finally got to see what he was talking 
about. It is understandable why they held it back. It is the biggest 
giveaway to the biggest businesses in America in modern memory. This 
bill would literally override State laws that have been passed to deal 
with this issue of culpability and blame when it comes to the pandemic 
we face.

  Twenty-eight States have already enacted laws to deal with it. This 
McConnell-Cornyn proposal would override those State laws. Sadly, their 
proposal would give incentives to cut corners when businesses deal with 
health and safety in the midst of this pandemic. This bill would 
jeopardize frontline workers and families, and, sadly, it would risk 
further spread of the virus.
  Here is my top-10 list of what is wrong with this bill that is 
proposed on liability immunity:
  First, the bill does nothing to protect workers, improve safety 
standards, or give businesses any incentive to take the proper 
  We had a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. I believe the senior 
Senator from Texas was at this hearing. A fellow representing a 
convenience store chain in Texas--his last name was Smartt--was the 
Republican witness. He was a very good witness, I might add. He told us 
how, in the hundreds of convenience stores he had in Texas, his company 
was literally doing everything they could think of to make the

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work environment and the customer's environment safe. He talked about 
social distancing and masks and sanitizers. They were doing everything 
they could. But his plea to us was: Senators, what is my standard of 
care? What is the standard I am expected to achieve? If I know that, he 
said, I can move forward and meet that standard, and I am going to. I 
am committed to it.
  Do you know what? I believed him. I believed his was a good-faith 
position. He said he wanted to know the standard--the public health 
standard--expected of him, and he would meet it.
  I want to tell you, if somebody turned around and sued him afterwards 
because of that, I am convinced that there isn't a jury in America--let 
alone in Texas--who would find him to be liable for negligence or 
recklessness. He did what he was asked to do. He followed the standards 
he was given. But his plea to us was: ``Give me a standard. I don't 
know where to turn.'' That is what he told us.
  The second concern I have with this bill is that it would gut 
existing State law safety standards. It would federally preempt the 
right of workers and victims to bring cases under State law to seek 
accountability for coronavirus-related harms and would supplant State 
laws that require businesses to act with reasonable care.
  Under the bill, the only way a victim could hold a business liable is 
if the victim proves by clear and convincing evidence--a higher 
standard than most--both that the corporation didn't even try to comply 
with the weakest available safety guideline and also--also--that the 
corporation was grossly negligent. I can just tell you, having spent a 
few years making a living as a lawyer, that those are almost impossible 
standards to meet.
  Third, by setting an immunity threshold at ``gross negligence,'' the 
bill would immunize corporations from accountability for conduct that 
meets the standards to prove negligence or recklessness under current 
State law. So you can get away with negligence; you can even get away 
with recklessness; but, boy, you just better not show gross negligence. 
That is what the bill says.
  Fourth, the bill would enable corporations to be shielded from 
liability even if they make no effort--no effort--to comply with the 
guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, due to the way the 
bill treats nonmandatory guidelines. Why would Congress federally 
preempt State laws and then allow businesses to ignore the Federal CDC 
safety guidelines?
  Fifth, instead of establishing strong, clear, enforceable Federal 
safety standards by OSHA and CDC, the Republican bill would go the 
other direction and shield businesses from enforcement proceedings 
under Federal health and safety laws; in other words, specifically 
protecting businesses from being held accountable under existing health 
and safety laws, Federal bills, laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act, 
the Americans with Disabilities Act, OSHA, and many, many more.
  Sixth, my Republican colleagues say this bill is aimed only at 
frivolous coronavirus lawsuits, but the bill would wipe out legitimate 
claims by workers and victims. By forcing all COVID lawsuits to meet a 
higher standard of proof, heightened pleading requirements, limits on 
discovery, and other restrictive hurdles, the bill would make it nearly 
impossible for workers and victims to even file a claim, let alone 
  Seventh, the bill would upend the medical liability laws of all 50 
States and impose 5 years of sweeping Federal preemption for nearly all 
healthcare liability cases, including for claims that are not related 
  I went through this and read it over and over again because I used to 
deal with medical malpractice cases. I heard, on the floor, Senator 
McConnell and Senator Cornyn say: ``We have to protect the doctors. We 
have to protect the hospitals. We have to protect the nurses.'' That, 
of course, appeals to all of us because we feel such a debt of 
gratitude to the healthcare workers and what they are going through to 
protect us. So I took a look, and it turns out that they compiled the 
statistics on the number of medical malpractice cases filed in America, 
in the entire Nation, that mention coronavirus or COVID-19. Do you know 
how many medical malpractice cases have been filed during what they 
call a tsunami--a tsunami--of frivolous lawsuits against medical 
providers? How many do you think in the course of this year? Six. In 
the entire Nation of 50 States, 6 lawsuits--what a tsunami.
  The provision on medical malpractice goes further and says: You don't 
have to prove that you were dealing with coronavirus to get this 
special treatment. You can say that the coronavirus had some impact on 
you as a medical provider.
  Some impact. That is it? What does that mean? Coronavirus has had an 
impact on every single American. Some impact? It basically means that 
all medical malpractice suits are going to be put on hold for 4 or 5 
years regardless of the circumstances, regardless of whether they had 
anything to do with COVID-19.
  Eighth, the bill aims to solve a problem that does not exist. We are 
months into this epidemic, and there has been no tidal wave of worker 
or victim lawsuits that justifies this massive Federal preemption of 
State laws and grants of broad immunity. Out of 4.7 million Americans--
and that is a low-ball number--4.7 million Americans who we think have 
been infected by COVID-19, there have been 6 COVID medical malpractice 
suits, 17 consumer personal injury suits, and 75 conditions-of-
employment suits. Many of the lawsuits involving COVID-19 are between 
insurance companies: Does your policy cover, or does your policy cover?
  Ninth, the bill is entirely one-sided in favor of corporations. Under 
the bill, corporations get immunity as defendants but can still bring 
COVID-related cases as plaintiffs. Only workers and infected victims 
have their rights cut off by this bill.
  Finally, the bill even goes so far as to allow corporations and the 
Department of Justice to sue the workers for bringing claims for COVID 
  The liability immunity this bill would grant would last for 5--5 
years. The fact that our Republican colleagues are proposing 5 years of 
immunity for corporations but only a handful of months of assistance 
for workers and families tells you their priorities.
  This Republican corporate immunity proposal is not credible, and 
there are serious questions as to whether it is even constitutional. 
This is an area traditionally governed by State law. Twenty-eight 
States have adjusted their laws to address it during this pandemic. The 
Federal Government has deferred to the States on nearly every aspect of 
COVID response--this President said: Leave it to your Governor; leave 
it to your mayor--from testing, to procuring PPE, to mask policies, to 
stay-at-home orders. There is no reason why the Federal Government now 
wants to step in at the expense of workers and at the expense of 
  I urge my colleagues to oppose the Republican corporate immunity bill
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Loeffler). The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, it was fortuitous that I was here on the 
floor when my friend from Illinois decided to talk about the liability 
provisions of the bill we filed last week, the next installment in the 
COVID-19 response. Let me just spend a couple of minutes talking about 
the issues he raised.
  My friend, our colleague from Illinois, is a very talented lawyer. He 
has a lot of great experience in the courtroom. He understands how 
courts work and how the litigation practice works.
  I think at last count I saw that roughly 3,000 to 3,500 lawsuits had 
been filed. I don't know what the exact number is, but it is pretty 
irrelevant because there is ordinarily, under State tort laws--at least 
in my State--a 2-year statute of limitations for a personal injury 
lawsuit. So I guarantee you that the flood is coming. Having survived 
one pandemic, the American economy is going to have to withstand a 
second pandemic of opportunistic lawsuits.
  I think it is going to be hard for people to prove where they 
acquired the virus. Ordinarily, that would be an element of the 
plaintiff's burden of proof, but we know that in jury trials, where 
expert witnesses are hired, all they would need to say is that it is 
more likely than not that they got it at this daycare center or this 
nonprofit or in this hospital--enough to create a question for the 
jury. Then it is really a

[[Page S4685]]

matter of whose expert witness you believe, and, of course, the chances 
are that you will be found responsible based upon that contested 
factual issue.
  It is more likely, I believe, that these lawsuits will have very 
little merit. The juries will be very skeptical of these lawsuits 
because they understand that this pandemic came out of nowhere. 
Actually, we know where it came from: China. But nobody was fully aware 
of all of the circumstances under which we would need to respond.
  We have had to adapt as time has gone on, and we have had different 
advice from the CDC and the national experts. For example, I remember--
I went back and checked. The CDC didn't recommend that we wear masks 
until roughly April. Before that, they were really considered 
ineffective. So if somebody files a lawsuit saying, well, you should 
have been wearing masks at your workplace, and because you didn't, 
somebody got the virus, well, what is the timeframe in which that 
guidance would apply? Would it be retroactive to January, when the 
virus first broke out here in the United States, or would it be sort of 
based on lessons learned down the road?
  Here is the real problem: My friend from Illinois knows that lawsuits 
are filed every day in America with no real expectation of ever trying 
the case in front of a jury--or a judge, for that matter--because we 
all know that the costs of defending those lawsuits can be enough in 
and of themselves to deter people from reopening their business.
  Frequently, what happens--there is a phenomenon known as nuance 
settlements, where defendants calculate, how much is this going to cost 
me to defend, and I will go ahead and pay that money now in order to 
avoid the further vexation of a lawsuit. And that is the seed money 
used to file the next lawsuit and the next lawsuit and the next 
lawsuit. I think we can reasonably expect that there will be a lot of 
class-action lawsuits.
  The goal here is not to provide blanket immunity; the goal is to do 
what we did after the Y2K phenomenon, when we questioned whether our 
computers would actually register the change of the century rather than 
go back to the earlier century and whether the disruption in financial 
markets and the like would occur. This is roughly the same sort of 
thing we did after 9/11, too, to provide some stability, some 
certainty, to very chaotic and challenging times.
  So we know that, in addition to the public health fight, we are 
trying to reopen our economy safely. Mothers and fathers and teachers 
and school officials are thinking about how can our children resume 
their education, whether online or in person, but safety, obviously, is 
the most important point.
  The fact is, we had one of the best economies in my lifetime before 
this virus hit in January, and now we are in a recession. The question 
is, Are we going to recover, rebound from this now that we have learned 
how to treat people with the COVID-19 virus better to save more lives, 
to prevent them from going on ventilators and the like? And, as we are 
in a race to come up with better treatments and, hopefully, a vaccine--
which will be the gold standard, I believe, in terms of our learning to 
live with this virus--what is going to happen to the economy? What is 
going to happen to the jobs that used to be there but which no longer 
exist because of the recession we are in?
  The threat of this second pandemic of litigation--opportunistic 
litigation--will be a body blow to an economy that wants to reopen, to 
people who want to go back to work safely, to children who want to go 
back to school, to parents who want to have a daycare facility watch 
their children in a safe environment while they go back to work.
  One of the things we have talked about during all this is essential 
workers. Well, I think all work is essential. It is important. It is 
important to our personal well-being, it is important to our economy, 
and it is important to the families who depend on the wage earner to 
bring home a paycheck so that they can put food on the table and pay 
the rent.
  I believe that this second pandemic of COVID-19 litigation--as I 
said, there is ordinarily a 2-year, I believe, statute of limitations--
could well keep our economy shut down, destroy small businesses that 
have been holding on by a thread, and, frankly, punish people who had 
no choice but to show up for work.
  I mean, if you are a physician or a nurse, you didn't have any option 
but to show up for work. You knew you had to do it in order to do your 
job, in order to pursue your profession. Are we then going to subject 
them to litigation risks because of their having to encounter something 
totally new and unprecedented?
  I think it would be a cruel joke for us to say: Yes, you are an 
essential worker; yes, you have no choice but to show up; and, yes, you 
have no choice but to be subjected to a lawsuit because somebody 2 or 3 
years later wants to second-guess the decisions you made in the middle 
of a pandemic. I just think it would be enormously unfair to those 
essential workers who had no choice but to show up.
  I want to say, in conclusion, I disagree with my colleague on one 
other matter as well. I believe, by rewarding compliance with 
government public health guidelines, providing a safe harbor for 
negligence claims, it actually incentivizes people to follow those 
guidelines. Isn't that what we want to do? Isn't that what we want our 
schools, our daycare centers, our nonprofits, our retail businesses--
don't we want them to comply with those public health guidelines?
  Well, this is one way to reward them and incentivize them to do 
exactly that. I know we are still a long way away from a negotiated 
resolution of the things that separate us here on this next COVID-19 
bill, but I agree with the majority leader that this is an essential 
ingredient in that next bill.
  Prior to the arrival of COVID-19 in America, the Texas economy was 
booming, along with the rest of America's economy. Businesses have 
flocked to Texas, creating new jobs and attracting top talent from 
around the country. People are literally voting with their feet and 
coming to where they have an opportunity to work, provide for their 
family, and pursue their dreams.
  We began the year with a 3.5-percent unemployment rate in Texas--3.5 
percent, just one-tenth of a percent above the historic low set last 
summer. But as the pandemic began its deadly sweep across the country, 
everything changed. Texas businesses, as were required, closed their 
doors to stop the spread of the virus, and millions of workers were 
suddenly without a paycheck.
  We didn't know when our economy would begin to recover, when we would 
reopen to a point where those who were laid off work could come back 
safely. And we knew State unemployment benefits alone were not 
sufficient to bridge the gap. That is why, when we passed the CARES Act 
late in March, we didn't just enhance the unemployment benefits; we 
actually sent a direct deposit to the bank account of all adults 
earning less than $75,000 a year. We sent them $1,200 to tide them 
over, to give them a lifeline, which I think was very, very important 
because, even if you are out of work, you can't get unemployment 
benefits instantaneously, and we know that a lot of the workforce 
commissions like those we have in Texas that administer the 
unemployment compensation program were overwhelmed with applications. 
So it was important that we provide that direct relief and then the 
enhanced unemployment benefit.
  Well, in Texas, the average unemployment benefit is $246 a week. With 
an additional $600 a week, which we added as part of the CARES Act, 
that amount more than tripled. Since March, more than 3 million Texans 
have filed for unemployment benefits, and recipients have taken 
advantage of the bolstered benefits, which I supported.
  This additional income, provided on a temporary basis, has helped 
families cover their rent, their groceries, and other critical expenses 
until they are able to return to work, and, for many workers, there is 
still a great deal of uncertainty about when that might happen.
  When the CARES Act passed in March, we were all hopeful that the 
economic outlook at this point would be much brighter than it is today, 
and that is why these benefits came with an expiration date of July 31, 
last Friday. We had hoped that our economy

[[Page S4686]]

would be rebounding and we would be in better shape controlling and 
defeating this virus and that more businesses would be able to reopen 
their doors or create new jobs, which obviously has not happened as 
quickly as we would have liked.

  In Texas, our unemployment rate went from 3.5 percent to 13.5 percent 
in April, a 10-point increase in unemployment. We have made progress 
since then, thankfully, with it dropping now down to 8.6 percent--still 
a historically high level of unemployment, but it is moving in the 
right direction.
  While this is encouraging, we still have a long way to go, and we 
cannot allow those impacted to go another day without the income that 
they need to support their families. As Republicans and Democrats 
continue to work together toward an agreement on the next coronavirus 
response package, these individuals are being sacrificed and hurt in 
the interim.
  Why did Democrats block our attempt to extend unemployment benefits 
last week? Is it because they don't care about the people who are 
hurting, who need those resources?
  Our colleague from Arizona, Senator McSally, offered a bill last week 
to extend these benefits for an additional week so that we could 
continue negotiating, but the minority leader, the Democratic leader, 
Senator Schumer, blocked it. He prevented us from passing the simple, 
1-week extension to give us some time to complete our negotiations and 
make sure that people who needed that money would not be hurt.
  I am embarrassed that the Senate could not overcome this partisan 
dysfunction in order to provide this extended benefit to people who 
need it while we do our job here. There is no excuse for allowing this 
provision to expire without even a temporary measure until a final 
decision is reached.
  Even though we are coming up on the traditional August recess, I 
believe we need to stay here working until an agreement is reached to 
provide these workers with the support they need. Of course, there is a 
delicate balance between helping these workers and standing in the way 
of an economic recovery.
  Here is the twist: Over the last few months, I have been hearing from 
a number of business owners in Texas who are struggling to rehire their 
employees because--get this--they are actually making more from 
unemployment than they made while working, and this is not just a one-
off or an isolated issue.
  According to the Texas Workforce Commission, with the $600 Federal 
benefit on top of the State benefit, 80 percent of the recipients of 
unemployment insurance were making more money on unemployment than they 
were when previously employed--80 percent. I think that is a mistake. 
Paying people more not to work than they would make taking available 
work makes no sense whatsoever.
  Now, obviously, if there is not a job for people to take, then they 
should continue to get unemployment benefits, but if there is a job, 
then I think the incentive should be to encourage them to safely return 
to work, not to pay them more not to work.
  The bill proposed by House Democrats would extend the $600 Federal 
benefit through next January, providing even less of an incentive for 
workers to safely reenter the workforce. This is just one of the 
countless places where the Democrats' $3 trillion Heroes Act fails to 
deliver the relief our country actually needs. This is $3 trillion on 
top of the roughly $3 trillion that we have already spent.
  Rather than helping Americans get back to work, the Heroes Act passed 
by the House includes a long list of liberal priorities, things like 
environmental justice grants--what in the heck does that have to do 
with COVID-19?--soil health studies, and not one but two subsidies for 
diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry--hardly anything to do 
with COVID-19.
  What is more, our colleagues across the aisle who railed about tax 
cuts for the rich, well, they want to allow millionaires and 
billionaires in blue States to pay less in taxes. They want a tax cut 
for the millionaires and billionaires in their States by eliminating 
the cap on the deductibility of State and local taxes.
  For too long, people in my State and other parts of the country have 
had to subsidize the big-spending blue States by allowing them to 
deduct all of their State and local taxes. That means you and I have to 
pay to subsidize those high-tax jurisdictions like New York City, for 
  Well, in addition, the Heroes Act deepens the hiring struggle 
businesses are already facing, and it rapidly digs our Nation deeper 
and deeper into debt. It is so unpopular, even among our Democratic 
colleagues, that it barely managed to pass the House in May.
  I want to credit the Senator from Wyoming, who is here in the 
Chamber, who pointed out some of the quotes from the New York Times and 
others at the time.
  Here is what the New York Times said: ``Even though the bill was more 
a messaging document than a viable piece of legislation, its fate was 
in doubt in the final hours before its passage.''
  National Public Radio, hardly a bastion of conservative news, said: 
``The more than 1,800-page bill marks a long wish list for Democrats.''
  If this bill were to become law, Texans' tax dollars wouldn't be 
supporting our response and recovery; they would be funding a range of 
completely unrelated liberal pet projects.
  Speaker Pelosi knew the Heroes Act didn't have a chance of passing in 
the U.S. Senate. She never intended for that bill to pass in the 
Senate. It was all about messaging and posturing and trying to manage 
the radicals in the Democratic caucus in the House.
  These unwanted, unaffordable, and, frankly, laughable proposals are 
not the types of solutions America needs to recover from this crisis, 
especially when it comes to rebuilding our economy.
  In the next relief bill, Congress must include additional 
unemployment benefits to help those who, through no fault of their own, 
are out of work, but we can't defy common sense and continue paying 
some people more to stay home than to return to work. Our long-term 
economic recovery will depend on people safely returning to the 
workforce, and Congress cannot stand in the way.
  In addition to supporting workers until they are able to return to 
work, we also need to ensure that they will have a job to go back to.
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to proceed for 5 more 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I thank my colleague for his indulgence.
  One of the things we need to do is make sure that the Paycheck 
Protection Program is replenished as well. This is the most successful 
part of our coronavirus response--more than $670 billion appropriated 
to help small businesses maintain their payroll, to keep their 
employees on the payroll.
  More than 400,000 small businesses in Texas have received these 
loans, bringing in over $41 billion to the Lone Star State. This money 
has kept countless Texans on the payroll not only for today but into 
the future. I hope we will continue the Paycheck Protection Program as 
part of the next COVID-19 response.
  There is another provision that we need to address, though, and that 
has to do with the deductibility of the expenses of businesses that 
have received Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants. 
Unfortunately, while Congress made clear that we expected businesses 
that received these loans and grants to have the benefit of the 
ordinary business expenses, the Internal Revenue Service has said just 
the opposite.
  The Joint Tax Committee that scores bills--tax bills--has said that a 
bill we have now introduced that would allow that deductibility to make 
that very clear has a zero score because they understood that Congress 
intended to allow those deductions in the first place.
  We have two choices to help small businesses: We can write them 
another check, or we can allow them to deduct their ordinary business 
expenses. This would provide some more liquidity and provide additional 
assistance and cost nothing in terms of the score on the bill. It has 
bipartisan support that I believe merits our consideration.
  In conclusion, we need to do everything we can to support the workers 
and families struggling to make it through this economic downturn, 
while simultaneously securing the foundation for a strong economic 

[[Page S4687]]

The stakes are high, and I believe the Senate must stay in session 
until we are able to deliver the relief our country needs.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that I be able 
to complete my remarks prior to the scheduled vote.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered
  Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I want to start by addressing a few of 
the things that the minority leader, Senator Schumer, discussed this 
  Last week, Senator Schumer twice--twice--blocked an extension to the 
Federal unemployment bonus payments. Twice, the Democratic leader threw 
his hands up, and he said no. He said: Democrats will not support an 
extension of these benefits--he said--at any level. Why? He said why. 
He said he wants Republicans to pass his leader's bill. His leader is 
Nancy Pelosi. It is partisan, and it is loaded.
  Senator Schumer likes to talk about some of the things in the 
Speaker's bill, but he carefully avoids much of it because one-third of 
the spending is completely unrelated to coronavirus--a full one-third.
  Senator Schumer says we remain far apart. He said that the difference 
is between ``priorities and scale.'' Priorities and scale. Well, let's 
look at some of the priorities in the bill that he supports: direct 
payment checks to illegal immigrants; taxpayer-funded abortions; 
changes to election laws--permanent; tax breaks for the wealthy in New 
York and in California; millions and millions more for environmental 
justice, the National Endowment for the Arts. It is a long, long list.
  The minority leader's statement was full of metaphors and analogies 
this morning, but he had very little, if any, substance.
  The votes we had last week were not what he said--``sham votes''; 
they were real votes that would have extended real money to real people 
all over the country. The answer by Senate Democrats, according to 
their Senate Democratic leader, is a larger Federal Government. That is 
what they are proposing.
  The minority leader used the analogy of a leaky faucet. He said that 
we have to take care of the flood, but he never mentioned actually 
fixing the faucet. Their bill does exactly that--never gets to fixing 
the problem; it just gives Americans a larger government.
  The Republican plan provides 10 times more for vaccine development 
and distribution than what the Democrats passed in the House. It 
actually gets at beating the virus. The Democrats say they are rescuing 
schools and small businesses, but their bill actually zeroes out the 
Paycheck Protection Program and provides less money for schools.
  As for understanding the needs of the country, Senate Republicans 
have passed, in a bipartisan way, $3 trillion in relief, and half of 
that is still unspent.
  On the State and local government side, it is ironic to hear the 
minority leader mention all of his preferred public service workers, 
but not once in that discussion did he mention police officers. That is 
because the platform of the Democrats now really is to defund the 
police. And this is at a time when the murder rate in his own 
hometown--New York City--is at a record level.
  I come to the floor to discuss the reckless spending and the partisan 
obstruction by the Democratic Party. It is the path they have chosen to 
deal with coronavirus. It is the Speaker's $3 trillion runaway spending 
spree. Speaker Pelosi says it is her way or the highway, and the Senate 
Democratic leader, her deputy, Chuck Schumer, has been 100 percent 
behind her political stunt.
  At the same time, the Democrats are ignoring what the American people 
tell us they want and need. They want to resume their lives. People 
want to resume their lives safely and sensibly, and to do so, they need 
a safe work environment; they need a safe, effective vaccine; they need 
their jobs back; and they need their kids in school. Republicans are 
doing everything we can to provide this.
  At this time of soaring national debt, we must make sure that every 
penny we spend is focused on the disease and the recovery. Congress has 
already approved nearly $3 trillion in combined coronavirus aid. When 
the Senate passed the bipartisan CARES Act, it was the largest rescue 
package in U.S. history. Over $1 trillion of the relief money still has 
not been spent, and at the same time, millions of people who lost their 
jobs in lockdowns remain out of work. Schools and small businesses face 
challenges in reopening as well.
  Congress needs to act, and we need to act now. We want to support 
people who are most in need and to do it in a way that encourages, not 
discourages, work.
  According to the University of Chicago study, two out of three 
unemployed people are currently making more at home than they would at 
work. That is due to this $600-per-week bonus payment. It is not common 
  Last week, when Republicans offered a sensible compromise, Democrats 
rejected it out of hand. They want to continue paying people more to 
stay home than they would make at work. Democratic leaders are holding 
the unemployed hostage--as they say, leverage--in their negotiations 
with the White House. Once again, the Democrats are putting politics 
above people, slowing the economic recovery, and destroying millions of 
jobs in the process.
  Senate Republicans, meanwhile, introduced serious relief legislation. 
The Republican legislation is targeted, tailored to the emergency. Our 
bill provides resources for healthcare for kids and for jobs. We safely 
reopen the economy. We safely reopen schools. We fund testing, 
treatment, and vaccines. We provide liability protection. We shield the 
medical community, K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and small 
businesses from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits. We already see greedy 
trial lawyers trying to profit from the Nation's pain. Over 4,000 
lawsuits have already been filed. An avalanche of abusive coronavirus 
lawsuits will flatten and flatline the economy as it just tries to 
  We continue to put the health, safety, and well-being of the American 
public first. We are doing everything we can to defeat the virus, and 
we contrast our serious efforts with Speaker Pelosi's pricey, partisan 
pipe dream. If enacted, her so-called Heroes Act would be a huge waste 
of taxpayer money--the largest waste of taxpayer money in U.S. history. 
In fact, her bill costs more than all previous coronavirus legislation 
combined. It may be her dream; it would be a nightmare for the American 
  We can go through the things that are in the Democrats' wish list, 
and anything I would say here would just be the tip of the iceberg. Let 
me remind you what POLITICO reported when the bill passed the House. It 
said: It is a Democratic wish list filled up with all the parties' 
favorite policies. National Public Radio said the bill marks a long 
wish list for Democrats. The New York Times said the bill was more a 
messaging document than a viable piece of legislation.
  Government doesn't have a spending problem so much as an overspending 
problem. It is on full display right now as the Democrats promote 
runaway spending--spending that is unrelated to the challenge before 
us. Speaker Pelosi is wasting our Nation's time on a far-left fantasy 
that does not have a single chance in the world of becoming law.
  Let me be clear. Republicans will hold the line on reckless spending. 
We need to keep the next relief bill to no more than $1 trillion, and 
we need to ensure that the bill only includes things directly related 
to the coronavirus.
  I am ready to act now. It is essential we get this right. And for the 
good of the country, this wild, willful, wasteful spending by the 
Democrats has to stop.
  I yield the floor.
  I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the question is, 
Will the Senate advise and consent to the Menezes nomination?
  Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from North Carolina (Mr. Tillis).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Maryland (Mr. Cardin),

[[Page S4688]]

the Senator from Vermont (Mr. Leahy), the Senator from Vermont (Mr. 
Sanders), and the Senator from Virginia (Mr. Warner) are necessarily 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cruz). Are there any other Senators in the 
Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 79, nays 16, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 155 Ex.]


     Scott (FL)
     Scott (SC)
     Van Hollen


     Cortez Masto

                             NOT VOTING--5

  The nomination was confirmed
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, and the 
President will be immediately notified of the Senate's actions.
  The Senator from Kansas.