August 4, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 138 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 138
(Senate - August 04, 2020)
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[Pages S4699-S4700] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST Ms. McSALLY. Mr. President, 5 days ago, I stood before you and this body and urged our fellow Senators to reach across the aisle and find agreement on how we can best help millions of Americans who have lost their livelihoods through no fault of their own due to this once-in-a- century pandemic. I made a simple request for Senators to be pragmatic, to meet in the middle, and to expand the unemployment benefits through Friday--for 7 days--while Congress continues to work through our differences and comes up with a solution. I asked: Who could possibly be against this? Well, it turns out the minority leader came to the floor personally in order to object. The Senator from New York decided to play political theater and thought it was more important than assisting Americans who have been struggling to make ends meet. Once again, he led the way and used hard-working Arizonans and Americans as pawns in a political game. For the many Arizonans who are out of work right now, this is not a game. So here I am again, asking for a simple extension through the end of this week so that Arizonans don't see an interruption to these benefits as we work through our differences. Again, I ask: Who could possibly be against this? While some States continue expanded checks after they expired on Friday for a few weeks, Arizonans got their last one. These Arizonans live in my neighborhood. They live on my street. They worked paycheck to paycheck before this pandemic hit, and then they couldn't work. These Arizonans are people we know, like the single mom of two from Phoenix who for the first time in her life had to rely on unemployment to survive. She is the owner of a catering business. She has seen her income drop drastically, as weddings and large events continue to be canceled. The $840 she collected a week on unemployment is helping her get through, keeping her afloat, keeping her business and her family afloat to care for her two sons, one of whom is autistic and requires significant support. I am pleading with my fellow Senators: As we work through our differences, let's extend her benefit for 1 week. Who could possibly be against her? Last week I heard from another single mother of three who lives in Tucson. She told me she is terrified of falling into poverty because she is forced to live on $240 a week. The extra that we provided during this once-in-a-century pandemic helped her pay her bills and make ends meet. I am imploring my fellow Senators to extend her benefits, to keep her afloat for 1 week while we work through our differences, to address what we need to do to fight this pandemic, to defeat this virus, which we will, and provide the economic support and the recovery we need, because America will emerge stronger from this. We need to work through those differences. Let's just extend this for a week. Who could possibly be against her? Arizona seniors are also suffering. A 70-year-old man in Arizona drove for Uber and Lyft before the pandemic hit. He can no longer safely drive strangers throughout Phoenix given his high-risk status. He, too, benefited from the extended unemployment. That additional week will really make a difference for him. Again, I ask my fellow Senators: Who could possibly be against his getting those benefits for another week? These are just three of the countless stories I have heard from Arizonians. They are pleading with Congress to put the bickering and the dysfunction aside and work together. [[Page S4700]] When I got back home last weekend, people were asking: Why did they object? It was for 7 days while you guys work through your differences. Why can't you guys get your act together? Why can't you just do your jobs and, in the meantime, just give us 7 more days? That is a reasonable request. That is why I am here again to offer a simple, commonsense solution--to extend the expanded $600 for unemployed Americans through the week while we continue to work through our differences here to provide economic support, relief, and economic recovery for America. Who could possibly be against this? Who could possibly be against this? Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of my bill at the desk. I further ask unanimous consent that the bill be considered and read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Mr. WYDEN. Reserving the right to object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator for Oregon. Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President and colleagues, the only thing worse than what the Republicans have done here--cutting off desperately needed unemployment insurance to millions of American families and communities--would be to allow a bill to pass that promises money without actually delivering it. Even if this short-term extension were to pass, State agencies--the experts in this field--have told us and the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee in very clear terms that States don't have enough time to reprogram their systems and avoid a lapse in benefits. The State unemployment systems are not equipped to flip these unemployment benefits on and off. Short-term extensions don't work and will not work from an administrative standpoint. No Senator has to take my word for it. The National Association of State Workforce Agencies has said what I have just said: A short-term extension isn't enough for the hard-working Americans relying on this lifeline who don't have jobs to go back to. What about next week and the week after that? The only responsible route is to agree to the extension with triggers that will lower the payments only when it is appropriate to do so, and that means when the economy is in recovery, not when the economy is in freefall like it still is now. Republicans wish to cover for the fact that they refused to come to the negotiating table for months. I looked at the record. Literally, for months--as the author of the $600 more each month and the expansion to cover gig workers and others--we asked Senate Republicans to join us in negotiations. The Democratic leader, Senator Schumer, and the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, all made that request again and again, and Republicans were unwilling to do that. So Republicans are trying to cover for the fact that they refused to come to the negotiating table for months. Our country needs a long-term solution that ensures the extra $600 remains available for as long as this four-alarm economic crisis continues. I object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. The Senator from Arizona. Ms. McSALLY. Mr. President, I am just picturing, if you are one of my neighbors or one of the people I mentioned who are watching TV right now--this is Washington. These are bureaucratic reasons why we can't just simply do what I am asking, which is extend for 1 week what we all agreed upon in the past while we continue to work together to try and solve problems on behalf of Arizonans. That is all I am asking. Bureaucratic reasons or posturing or finger-pointing--people are so tired of it. I am tired of it. That is why I first ran to come into this deployed zone and fight in a different way than when I did in uniform but with the same exact oath. We are here to solve problems. We are here to represent the people we represent. And, while we work through our differences, there is political theater happening, Arizonans. There is political theater. There is unserious negotiations, unfortunately, happening because some people, like the minority leader, think that this is the path to power. Somehow, Arizonans can be hurt, and others can be hurt. Somehow, that is going to work in their favor. I am disgusted by that. I am simply asking for us to do our job. Maybe I need to offer another bill that all Members of Congress have their pay held until we sit down and solve this. I did that before when the CARES Act was being delayed for political reasons. This is frustrating. It is disappointing. It is simply a 7-day extension while we work through our differences. Once again, friends on the other side of the aisle have let Arizonans and Americans down, but we need to keep working to solve this issue and support the people we represent. This is a commonsense request, and it is very disappointing that they are not letting it through. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon ____________________